Resale Price Maintenance (RPM) in the United Kingdom

RPM is closely monitored and regularly investigated by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (particularly immediately following the introduction of the Competition Act 1998).

RPM is prohibited primarily pursuant to Chapter I of the CA98; but also under Chapter II if resale prices are imposed or effectively enforced by a dominant supplier. Notably, RPM is a hard core restriction for the purposes of the UK vertical agreements block exemption, which causes the block exemption not to apply. RPM can take both direct (i.e. the setting of specific minimum resale prices) and indirect form (e.g. fixing the distributor’s margin, fixing the maximum level of discount from a prescribed resale price, making rebates or refund of marketing costs subject to observing a given price level, linking resale price to those charged by competitors and threats, intimidation, warnings, penalties, delay or suspension of deliveries or early termination unless a prescribed price level is adhered to). Maximum prices or RRPs are permitted provided they do not amount to a minimum price by virtue of pressure or incentives from either party.

Major case law:

  • Replica football kits (2003) – Ten companies were fined a total of £18.6 million for price fixing: RPM on retailers by manufacturer, Umbro, as well as horizontal price fixing between retailers.
  • Mobility Scooters (2014) – Pride Mobility Products and eight retailers agreed to an arrangement preventing retailers from advertising online prices for certain models of mobility scooters below their RRPs. Similar finding also made against TGA for agreements with three online retailers, who then had their immunity from fines withdrawn (the first time this had ever happened at an early stage of an investigation). Pride case let to first ever collective follow-on damages action in the UK (under s. 47B of the Competition Act).
  • Bathroom fittings (2016) – Following complaints about online discounting, Ultra Finishing introduced online trading policy limiting discount to 20 per cent of RRP (punishable by reduction in wholesale terms and withdrawal of permission to use copyrighted images on their resale websites). Later withdrawn to be replaced by “Guidelines” with a “recommended” price which was in fact effectively enforced through close monitoring and threats to withdraw copyright licenses for use of images online and preventing promotions in relation to its products – CMA particularly noted in this case, the effect the policy/guidelines had in chilling the otherwise downward effect of the internet as a driver of price competition.
  • Commercial Refrigeration sector (2016) – Fine of £2.3m on ITW for RPM in Foster commercial fridges 2012-14 (max. discount creating online and offline minimum advertised price), enforced through threats to reduce wholesale terms, temporarily or permanently cease supply or threaten to do so, or even permanently discontinue a reseller’s account.
  • Domestic Light Fittings (2017 and 2022) – Most recent, high-profile cases involving settlements with NLC, with the fine totalling £2.7m, and Dar Lighting, with the fine totalling £1.5m. NLC had agreed with resellers that they would not discount more than 20 per cent of the trade price/RRP for their products, enforcing observance of the minimum pricing level through an Internet Licence Agreement and threatening penalties, including account suspension, revocation of the ILA and ability to use copyrighted images online. Dar Lighting had restricted retailers’ freedom to set their own prices online between 2017 and 2019.

Guidance Papers

The CMA notably issued Guidance for businesses on RPM in 2016, reminding readers that RPM can take indirect as well as direct forms and including the following “Don’ts” for retailers:

  • “Don’t agree with your suppliers to fixed or minimum retail prices
  • Don’t exercise pressure on the supplier and other retailers to adhere to recommended resale prices.”

Prompted particularly by the first Domestic Light Fittings case, the CMA also published an open three-page letter to suppliers and retailers on RPM, which notably highlighted the following key points for parties on either side of resale pricing arrangements:

“If you are a supplier:

  • You must not dictate the price at which your products are sold, either online or through other sales channels.
  • Policies that set a minimum advertised price for online sales can equate to RPM and are usually illegal.
  • You must not use threats, financial incentives or take any other action, such as withholding supply or offering less favourable terms, to make resellers stick to recommended resale prices.
  • You cannot hide RPM agreements – restrictive pricing policies in business-to-business arrangements are illegal whether verbal or written. Equally you cannot try to use apparently legitimate policies (e.g. image licensing) to conceal RPM practices.
  • If you receive a CMA warning letter, take it seriously and seek independent legal advice to ensure your business is compliant with competition law.

If you are a reseller:

  • You are entitled to set the price of the products you sell, whether online or through other sales channels.
  • Suppliers are not usually allowed to dictate the prices at which you sell or at which you advertise their products online.
  • If you have agreed to sell at fixed or minimum prices with your supplier, you may both be found to be breaking competition law.
  • If a supplier asks you to comply with a restrictive pricing policy you should report this to the CMA.”


More recently, the CMA’s guidance to accompany the UK vertical agreements block exemption, issued in July 2022, includes a section on RPM, which confirms that RPM is generally considered a serious restriction of competition. However, it also discusses some limited potential scenarios where it may be possible to demonstrate that RPM qualifies for exemption, although there are no cases where this has been established.