A group of five top model agencies have been fined a total of £1.5m for colluding on prices.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said the agencies “regularly and systematically” shared information and discussed prices, and in some cases agreed a common approach to pricing or agreed to fix minimum prices.
The collusion took place between April 2013 and March 2015. CMA first made the allegations public in a statement of objection in June 2016.
FM Models, Models 1, Premier, Storm and Viva, alongside their trade association the Association of Model Agents (AMA) have all been fined sums ranging from £2,500 to £491,000.
Models 1, Premier and Storm have said they will be appealing the decision.
CMA said its investigation concerned a “wide range of modelling assignments”, from shoots worth a few hundred pounds to advertising campaigns worth over £10,000.
“The conduct occurred in the context of negotiations with a range of customers, including well-known high street chains, online fashion retailers and consumer goods brands,” it said.
CMA also said AMA attempted to influence other agencies by issuing circular emails urging members to resist prices offered by customers because they were too low.
However, it said uncompetitive conduct did not extend to the services of “so-called top models”.
In a joint statement Models 1, Premier and Storm said the CMA’s findings were “wholly mistaken” and did not “reflect a thorough understanding of the market”. It said the firms faced intense competition and powerful buyers.
“The CMA is penalising modelling agencies for seeking to maintain professional standards within the industry while also protecting the interests of young and vulnerable people. They are not improving the competitive environment but are damaging a small but important UK industry,” said John Horner, managing director of Models 1, on behalf of the three agencies.
Viva said it was “extremely disappointed” by the CMA’s decision and would decided what action to take in the coming days.
“Viva strongly denies it agreed to fix minimum prices or that it agreed a common approach to pricing… The CMA has rushed to issue an infringement decision and in doing so, has mischaracterised a number of information exchanges as price fixing and has imposed penalties which are grossly disproportionate in the circumstances,” it said.
AMA has not yet responded to requests for comment. FM Models is in liquidation.
The French and Italian national competition agencies have also announced they have issued penalties following investigations into the sector. CMA said it had liaised with both authorities but said its case “concerns separate conduct”.
The fines were:
- Storm Model Management Limited and Storm Models Limited – £491,000
- Models One Limited, One Worldwide Limited and Models 1 New Co Limited – £394,000
- FM Model Agency Limited – £251,000
- Viva Model Management London Limited and Viva Model Management Sarl – £245,000
- Premier Model Management Limited – £150,000
- The Association of Model Agents Limited – £2,500
☛ Want to stay up to date with the news? Sign up to our daily bulletin.