Hasbro at centre of price fix inquiry

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The Independent Online

Hasbro, one of the world's largest toy makers, is being investigated by the Office of Fair Trading over alleged price fixing in Britain.

The company, which makes Monopoly, Action Man and Trivial Pursuit, confirmed it had been contacted by the OFT regarding trading arrangements between Hasbro UK and its retail customers.

The OFT also confirmed the inquiry yesterday, saying : "We are conducting an investigation into alleged resale price maintenance in the toy industry." Hasbro has said it is co-operating with the authorities

The OFT would not confirm whether or not it is looking at other toy manufacturers. However, the investigation was said by one retailer to have caused "mass panic in the toy industry".

Hasbro confirmed in an SEC filing in the United States that it received two inquiries from the OFT during this year. It said: "Whilst the first inquiry related to a small portion of Hasbro UK's business, the inquiry received in the third quarter of 2001 from the OFT sought, amongst other things information relating to Hasbro UK's trading arrangements with its direct retail accounts, which represent the bulk of its business."

Hasbro said the fine could be between $236,000 and $38m (£26m). Hasbro's statement added: "While the company believes that some sort of fine will be imposed, it is the company's position that the amount should be at or below the low end of the range."

Hasbro is one of the dominant toy makers in the world along with its arch rival Mattel. It is thought to have around 15 per cent of the UK toy market, worth around £1.7bn a year. The biggest UK toy retailers include Argos, Woolworths and Toys R Us.

If the complaint is upheld, OFT has the right to fine a company up to 10 per cent of its UK turnover for three years running. Hasbro UK is based in Uxbridge.

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