Argos Ltd and Another v Office of Fair Trading: CA 19 Oct 2006

‘Appeals arising out of two distinct investigations by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) under the Competition Act 1998 (the 1998 Act, or the Act). One, referred to at the hearing as Toys and Games, was into agreements between Hasbro UK Ltd, Argos Ltd and Littlewoods Ltd fixing the price of Hasbro toys and games. The OFT’s amended decision, number CA98/8/2003, was issued on 21 November 2003. It found that Hasbro, Argos and Littlewoods had been parties to an agreement in breach of the Chapter I prohibition under the 1998 Act. It imposed substantial penalties on Argos and Littlewoods, but not on Hasbro because of a leniency agreement in relation to that party. Argos and Littlewoods both appealed to the Competition Appeal Tribunal (the Tribunal) against the finding of breach of the Act and against the penalty imposed. The Tribunal rejected the appeal on liability though it reduced the penalties on each appellant. Each of Argos and Littlewoods appeals to this court, with the permission of Jonathan Parker LJ, on both liability and penalty.
The other investigation, known as Football Shirts, was into price-fixing of replica football kit. The OFT’s decision, CA98/06/2003, was issued on 1 August 2003. It found that price-fixing agreements in breach of the Chapter I prohibition had been entered into by the Football Association, Manchester United plc, Umbro Holdings Ltd and a number of retailers including JJB Sports plc (JJB), Sports Soccer Ltd and Allsports Ltd in 2000 and 2001. It imposed penalties on the parties, apart from one which was by then in administration. JJB and Allsports appealed to the Tribunal against the finding of infringement and the penalty; Umbro and Manchester United appealed only on the amount of the penalty. On liability the Tribunal held that JJB had infringed the Chapter I prohibition, but not in all the respects in which the OFT had found, so that appeal was allowed in part. Allsports’ appeal on liability was dismissed. On the appeals on penalty, the amount of each penalty was varied, in the case of JJB by a significant reduction. Only JJB appeals to this court, on liability and penalty, again with permission granted by Jonathan Parker LJ.’
Chadwisk, Wall, Lloyd LJJ
[2006] EWCA Civ 1318
Competition Act 1998
England and Wales

Updated: 31 January 2021; Ref: scu.245406