Scooters Sales: OFT Frees Online Sales

August 5, 2013

On 5 August, the OFT issued a decision finding that Roma Medical Aids Limited (Roma), a manufacturer of mobility scooters based in Bridgend, Wales, and some of its online retailers, breached competition law.

The OFT found Roma entered into arrangements with seven UK-wide online retailers which prevented them from selling Roma-branded mobility scooters online and from advertising their prices online. The OFT found that these practices limited consumers’ choice and obstructed their ability to compare prices and get value for money.

The OFT found these practices occurred over various periods in relation to different retailers between 2011 and 2012 and prevented, restricted or distorted competition in the supply of mobility scooters in the UK. The OFT has directed the parties to bring the arrangements to an end (where this has not already happened) and to refrain from entering into the same or similar arrangements in the future. The announcement brings this aspect of the investigation to a conclusion.

Cavendish Elithorn, OFT Senior Director, Goods and Consumer Group, said:

‘Mobility scooters by definition tend to be sold to vulnerable consumers who may have trouble visiting a number of stores. Our 2011 market study into mobility aids found that mobility scooters in general can vary in price by over £1000 for the identical product and we have even seen price differences of £3000. It is therefore vitally important that consumers can use all the advantages of the internet to get a good price on this essential product and that innovative and efficient companies should not be prevented from winning new customers. This competition investigation followed the earlier market study into the sector and sends a clear message to business that we will follow up with enforcement action where credible evidence is found or provided.’

The OFT said that it welcomed the constructive cooperation of the parties throughout its investigation.

The decision relates to Roma and the following UK-wide online retailers: Careco (UK) Limited (formerly Discount Mobility Direct Limited), Discount Mobility Plus Limited/Rutland Mobility Limited, Discount Mobility Shop Limited/Mobility Abroad Limited, GBL Wheelchair Services Limited, Mobility Independence Limited, MT Mobility Limited/Hooplah Limited and Protec Mobility Trading Limited. Certain of those retailers also operate physical retail shops. None of the businesses will be penalised financially as the agreement is a small agreement in terms of the Competition Act 1998.

The OFT carried out a market study into the mobility aids sector in 2011. The study identified several areas of concern and also remedies to help consumers get a better deal, including a call for businesses to display actual prices or price ranges so that consumers can shop around more easily and find competitive quotes. The OFT continues to investigate concerns in the mobility aids sector.