The BRC has expressed “concern” over the OFT’s investigation into furniture prices including “totally impractical” deadlines the watchdog has set ahead of one of the sector’s busiest trading weekends.
BRC director general Helen Dickinson said it is “concerned” by the way in which the OFT has gone about the investigation and deemed the watchdog’s approach “disappointing”.
Retail Week revealed yesterday that retailers have received letters from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) warning them of the investigation. Carpetright, DFS, Dreams, SCS, Furniture Village and Harveys/Bensons for Beds are thought to have been contacted.
However, the OFT, which announced the investigation today (August 23), is not planning to disclose the names of the retailers under investigation.
Dickinson said: “The BRC recognises that there is an important role for the OFT to play, but we are concerned about the apparent lack of process and consultation in this investigation and will be raising concerns on behalf of the whole sector with the OFT chief executive and board.
“In addition we will be asking for an explanation about what could be two breaches of its own guidance which state that “It should not be assumed [as of today] that any breach of consumer protection legislation has occurred” and that the “OFT cannot advise if a business is being investigated” as malpractice has been reported and company names are now in the public domain. The OFT has also insisted on totally impractical deadlines, on this, one the busiest trading weekends of the year. It is disappointing to say the least.”
It is thought the OFT wants to determine, among other things, whether or not furniture retailers are inflating the prices of goods in order to sell them through a Sale at a more attractive discount.
Although the retailers are being investigated, there is no certainty that they will be found to have broken the rules on Sales promotions.