OFT officers visit JJB Sports
JJB Sports PLC confirms that it is assisting the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in an investigation it is carrying out in the sports retail market. OFT officers visited its offices in Wigan earlier.
The investigation follows an approach that JJB made to the OFT on 30 January 2009 for immunity pursuant to the OFT's leniency programme in relation to a suspected agreement or concerted practice to dampen competition in the sports retail market in the period from 8 June 2007 to 25 March 2009, being the period in which the former chief executive, Mr Christopher Ronnie, was employed by the Company. The directors take seriously JJB's
obligations under UK competition law and, since approaching the OFT, the Company has worked closely, and continues to cooperate fully, with the OFT and all aspects of its investigation.
The OFT considers that it is in the interest of the economy of the United Kingdom to have a policy of granting lenient treatment
to companies which inform it of cartel activities. The grant of a marker by the OFT is part of the process in applying for, and being granted, leniency. On 24 August 2009, the OFT confirmed the grant of a marker for "Type A" immunity to JJB in respect of the suspected cartel activity in the period from 8 June 2007 to 25 March 2009.
The OFT will only be in a position to decide whether or not to issue an infringement decision in the event that it has sufficient evidence to complete its investigation.This process may take up to a number of years. However, if the OFT were to complete its investigation, decide that JJB has infringed UK competition law and issue an infringement decision, the grant of the marker in favour of JJB means that it would receive full immunity from any financial penalty that would otherwise be imposed by the OFT.
The grant of the marker and the availability of immunity is subject to JJB complying with the OFT's standard immunity conditions, including continuous and complete cooperation with the OFT, a requirement to refrain from further participation in the suspected cartel and a duty not to act in bad faith. The OFT has confirmed that it is satisfied that JJB is complying with these conditions. In addition, in order for JJB to retain the marker it is also necessary that the strength of the evidence provided by JJB to the OFT is not materially undermined by any statements given by implicated current or former employees or officers such that there is no sufficient basis for the OFT to take forward a credible investigation.
In the event that the marker, or any subsequent immunity agreement, is withdrawn as a result of JJB's non compliance with the conditions or as a result of JJB's evidence being materially undermined as described above, and an infringement decision is issued by the OFT, JJB may be liable for a fine from the OFT of up to a maximum amount of 10% of the Group's turnover.