CCPC secures commitments in the supply of graduation gowns

December 19, 2017

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has secured Commitments from a number of Irish universities to change their procurement practices in the supply of graduation gowns. Following a complaint, the CCPC sought commitments to ensure that tender processes would take place regularly to encourage greater competition among suppliers and potentially lower the cost for students.

Universities run public tender competitions to choose a gown supplier who provides the appropriate gown in accordance with the institution’s requirements. However, as there are very few suppliers operating in the Irish market, a small number of companies are frequently appointed by colleges for repeat, long-running contracts. This lack of competition in the supply of academic gowns has resulted in a situation where a single firm acquired a dominant position in the market. Dominance by a single firm is not illegal under competition law, however consumers lose out when a dominant firm does not face competition from other rivals as there is less incentive to lower prices and to innovate.

The CCPC engaged with the main third-level colleges to make it easier for new suppliers to compete in this market. Commitments were given by the National University of Ireland, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin City University and the University of Limerick to put a number of measures in place in order to facilitate more competition and ensure increased transparency in the supply of gowns, including:

  • A reduction in the length of the supply contracts to no more than two years with a one-year extension in place for the on-campus supply and fitting of graduation gowns
  • The decoupling of photography and gown supply contracts
  • Each university must state clearly on its website that students have the option of sourcing gowns from other suppliers if they choose to do so.

Speaking about the Commitments secured, Brian McHugh, Member of the Commission, CCPC, said, “The strong market position of a main supplier in providing graduation gowns to universities meant that students were not provided with adequate choice when hiring graduation gowns. This situation was compounded by the lack of sufficient information that universities offered to students about their right to shop around for alternative suppliers to the one appointed by the university.”

“We are satisfied that the measures now put in place will encourage more competition in the supply of gowns which will be to the benefit of graduates in the years to come. We would also like to acknowledge the full cooperation of the National University of Ireland and the other universities in the course of our work.”

Return to News

Haven’t found what you’re looking for?