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The CC: Most frequently a supplier of school uniforms is selected imprudently

(05.06.2017.)

The Competition Council of Latvia (the CC) calls schools, where wearing uniforms is a mandatory requirement for students, to select the supplier of uniforms responsibly and consider offers of several companies. If the selected suppliers fail to ensure a qualitative service or fulfilment of contractual obligations, other companies have to be looked for, thus, promoting competition also among sewers of uniforms.

Currently, in Latvia there is no unified legal framework available, which would set a requirement for introduction of school uniforms at schools. Whereas at schools that have decided on a unified uniform for students, procurement procedures are not organized, because the state or local governments do not provide co-financing and parents are paying for uniforms themselves.

After completing monitoring of school uniforms, the CC concludes, that schools select a supplier of school uniforms without conducting market research and comparison of offers of different companies. Namely, most frequently the main source of information is the first information found on the Internet. However, the CC observed, that this information is not always accurate and complete both in terms of prices and quality of goods. Consequently, there is a basis to consider, that schools, probably, do not receive the best possible price and quality the market can offer.

In order to avoid it and ensure selecting of financially most advantageous offer, the CC encourages schools to regularly organize a competition on supply of uniforms and to announce it publicly, thereby achieving as large number of potential suppliers as possible. Schools are also advised to establish a commission for purchase of uniforms in cooperation with parents of students, which will assess service prices, quality and will choose the best offer according to criteria determined by the commission. At the same time, the CC invites schools to ensure, that information concerning clothing specification is constantly available and parents are not denied an opportunity, for example, to sew the uniform themselves.

The CC also indicates as a particularly important aspect for competition development the necessity for schools to be flexible, if they face inadequate conduct of suppliers. In such cases the CC encourages schools to assess offers of other companies and select a new cooperation partner. If schools are passive in their choice, a supplier can decide on increasing of prices for school uniforms and decreasing their quality.

The CC started the monitoring of school uniforms after public information on alleged market division among suppliers of school uniforms. After obtaining additional information and assessment of circumstances, the CC did not detect possible risks of competition distortion. Meanwhile, the authority explains these public statements with possible inflexibility of schools and unwillingness to change the selected supplier. Meanwhile, suppliers are aware of passivity of schools; therefore, they are not interested in trying to offer their services to a school, which already has selected a cooperation partner. As a result, also competition among suppliers is insufficient and is not promoted.