LONDON — The British Competition and Markets Authority, the regulatory agency monitoring businesses and anticompetitive activities, has taken a further step in its ongoing probe into the U.K. modeling sector.
As part of the investigation that began in March 2015, the regulator on Wednesday issued a statement of objection regarding five modeling agencies and the Association of Model Agents, a trade association.
The regulator believes the organizations have potentially breached U.K. and European Union competition law. According to the CMA, the AMA sent out alerts to the modeling agencies to reject certain fees and to negotiate higher rates. It also believes the agencies agreed to share information, including on pricing. It said some had even taken a joint approach to pricing between April 2013 and March 2015.
The agencies under the spotlight are FM Models, Models 1, Premier, Storm and Viva, which represent a roster of famous models, such as Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, Cara Delevingne, Sophie Dahl and Yasmin Le Bon.
“The allegations concern prices charged to a range of customers, including high street chains, online fashion retailers and consumer-goods brands,” stated Stephen Blake, senior director of the CMA’s Cartels and Criminal Group.
“The CMA alleges that these five model agencies sought to achieve higher prices in negotiations with their customers by colluding instead of competing,” he continued. “This is the first competition enforcement case taken forward by the CMA in the creative industries, which is an important part of the U.K. economy. Vigorous competition between businesses has benefits for customers and for the economy, keeping prices down and encouraging businesses to improve quality and be more efficient.”
The investigation has involved the regulator visiting agencies to retrieve information and interview staff members.
Blake noted that at this stage of the investigation the findings are provisional, and no conclusion can yet be drawn whether there has been a breach of competition law.
“We will carefully consider any representations from the parties before deciding whether the law has been broken,” he said.
According to a spokeswoman from Viva, the agency is looking into the allegations. “Viva is reviewing the Statement of Objections provided by the CMA and the specific allegations made against it,” she said. “Viva will be responding to the Statement of Objections in due course.” The other modeling agencies and AMA did not respond to requests for comments.