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Sports bra price-fixing claims investigated by watchdog

A sports bra-maker and three major department stores are being investigated by the trading watchdog over allegations they illegally agreed to prop up prices.

The claims relate to the Shock Absorber bra, once advertised by tennis star Anna Kournikova with the slogan, "Only the ball should bounce".

Tennis star Anna Kournikova advertised the Shock Absorber bra. Credit: PA/PA Wire

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) alleges that lingerie maker DB Apparel UK entered into anti-competitive agreements with John Lewis, Debenhams and House of Fraser between 2008 and 2011.

DB Apparel and Debenhams have denied the allegations, while House of Fraser and John Lewis said they are "cooperating fully" with the OFT's investigation and will respond in due course.

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Union welcomes call for crack down on pensions

This welcome report is a clear victory for union and consumer campaigning.

Auto-enrolment is a huge advance as it will lead to many more workers saving for a pension. But they need the best possible protection to ensure that every pound they save provides the best possible income in retirement.

This is why the OFT is absolutely right to crack down on abuses such as high charges and so-called active member discounts - charges that increase when people leave their employer.

We welcome the government's plan to cap charges, but see the rumoured one per cent cap as simply a starting point in a process that sees charges brought down much closer to the 0.5 per cent level already achieved by some providers.

But defined contribution (DC) pensions must not just be low cost, they need expert governance that runs schemes purely in the interests of their members.

– TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady

Government 'will act' on OFT report recommendations

This report outlines further important ways to help consumers, and we will act on its recommendations.

In particular, we need to ensure those already in pension schemes are getting good value for money, and will be actively involved in the audit of pension schemes sold prior to 2001.

We will consult shortly on the full range of options to protect consumers, including minimum scheme standards, and further action on charges and charge transparency.

– Minister for Pensions Steve Webb

Concern that report 'risks letting down pension savers'

We are particularly concerned that the report risks letting down pension savers who need someone solely on their side, with the independence and power to act in their interests, to make sure they get the best outcomes for their retirement savings.

We would have preferred a clear direction that employers have a choice – they should either be prepared to provide governance themselves or use a master trust arrangement.

The proposal to have governance as part of the provider risks fudging the issue and leading to potential conflicts of interest.

– Joanne Segars, National Association of Pension Funds

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Recommendations to shake up the pensions market

The Office of Fair Trading made a string of recommendations to shake up the pensions market. Credit: PA Wire

The trading watchdog said the Government should consult on improving the transparency and comparability of pension schemes to make it easier for employers to choose a scheme for their workers.

The Office of Fair Trading made a string of recommendations to shake up the pensions market to make sure that millions of new savers do not sink their money into rip-off schemes.

It carried out a study into the £275 billion defined contribution (DC) workplace pensions market, to look at whether such schemes offer value for money, if there is enough pressure on providers to keep their charges low and what size of pension pot savers are likely to end up with at retirement.

Three chains receive OFT investigation letters

A Carpetright shop in Staines. Credit: PA

The Office of Fair Trading is cautiously insisting that nothing illegal has been proven, that their investigation into 'misleading' sale pricing is still ongoing and that they are not yet naming the six companies thought to be involved.

But three chains have told ITV News that they have letters from officials: SCS Furniture, Carpetright and another who preferred not to be named.

Carpetright say they are cooperating with the investigation and aim to do nothing wrong.

Retailers told to 'review pricing practices'

OFT research has found that reference pricing can mislead consumers into thinking the item they have bought is of higher value and quality, pressure them to buy there and then so they don't 'miss out' on the deal and also impair their judgment, as buying an item immediately means they do not get the chance to search the market for the real best deals.

We have contacted a number of carpet and furniture retailers asking them to review their pricing practices and sign legally enforceable undertakings.

– OFT director Gaucho Rasmussen
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