CCPC seeks High Court order on Coach House agreement

April 29, 2021

In April 2019, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) opened an investigation into suspected anti-competitive practices by Chairs Limited, which trades under the name “Coach House” in the Republic of Ireland. Coach House is a wholesale and trade-only supplier of household furniture products and accessories with a warehouse and show room in Accrington, Lancashire, UK, and supplies household furniture products to resellers located in the Republic of Ireland.

The investigation involved an assessment of whether there was conduct which could constitute resale price maintenance (RPM), contrary to section 4 of the Competition Act 2002 (the 2002 Act), as amended and/or Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). This related to the manner in which Coach House’s then suggested selling prices were applied between March 2013 and August 2017 in the resale of Coach House’s household furniture products in the Republic of Ireland.

RPM involves an agreement or concerted practice having as its direct or indirect object the establishment of a fixed or minimum resale price. A typical RPM agreement may require a reseller to sell the goods or services at a specified price or above a minimum price which has been decided by the supplier.

Commitment Agreement between Coach House and the CCPC

The CCPC conducted an investigation, which included ongoing engagement with Coach House and third parties. Coach House at all times fully co-operated with the CCPC’s investigation. Following the investigation, the CCPC formed the preliminary view that Coach House may have engaged in RPM conduct by enforcing its suggested selling prices on four resellers in the State between March 2013 and August 2017.

Coach House denies that there was a breach of section 4 of the 2002 Act or Article 101 TFEU. However, in the interests of ensuring that the investigation could be concluded in a way that was acceptable to both parties, the CCPC and Coach House, entered into an agreement on 15 April 2021. In the agreement Coach House has agreed to give a commitment not to engage in RPM conduct and, in particular:

  1. to refrain from imposing or agreeing any terms and conditions that place obligations on its resellers to adhere to Coach House’s suggested, minimum or fixed resale prices for household furniture products;

    and

  2. to refrain from restricting the ability of resellers to independently determine the resale price of household furniture products.

The CCPC considers that these commitments address the competition concerns arising from its investigation.

The full text of the agreement between the CCPC and Coach House is published here.

Next steps

Section 14B of the 2002 Act, as amended, empowers the CCPC to apply to the High Court to have an agreement with a business, which it has been investigating, made an order of court. The CCPC is seeking to have its agreement with Coach House made an order of the High Court and the matter will be heard on 14 May 2021 . Should the agreement be made an order of the High Court, the terms of the agreement will come into effect after a standstill period of 45 days. No further information will be available until the conclusion of this process.

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