Customers buying sports bras at three major British department stores may have gotten a push-up of an unexpected sort, according to a government agency.
The Office of Fair Trading, a U.K. regulator, said it is investigating allegations that the trio of companies conspired with bra maker DB Apparel to boost the baseline price of the undergarments.
If so, the John Lewis, Debenhams and House of Fraser chains would have infringed on competition law, according to the OFT agency.
The brand in question: Shock Absorber, whose Ultimate Run bra sells for the equivalent of $53 on Web retailer Less Bounce.
The OFT said that between 2008 and 2011, when the alleged colluding was taking place, Shock Absorber commanded 15% of the U.K. sports bra market.
"We reject any allegations by the OFT that we have entered into any agreement or understanding with retailers as to their retail prices of our products," DB said in a statement.
The company said it has been "transparent with UK authorities since the beginning of this process and will continue to defend ourselves vigorously in this investigation."
House of Fraser, in a statement, said it is "co-operating fully" with the investigation.
"We are confident that we have been operating within all laws and regulations and are very supportive of any initiative which ensures pricing policies are fair for our customers," the company said.
John Lewis issued a similar statement, saying it is "fully cooperating with the OFT and will respond in due course."
Debenhams said in a statement that it "disputes these provisional findings of the OFT but is not in a position to comment further at this stage." The company said its external lawyers were dealing with the case.
The OFT said the companies could be on the hook for fines of up to 10% of their global revenue.ALSO:Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun