The Swatch Group
ACCC interviews former Swatch boss
As the court case involving Swatch Australia is set to begin, Mark Watson, Swatch’s former general manager, has confirmed that he has been interviewed by the ACCC.
Mark Watson has accused his old company of price fixing and is suing for loss and damages after he was forced to leave Swatch’s head office in Glen Iris last November.
The case was postponed late last year allowing the parties to gather more evidence and, at the time, it was believed that the ACCC had taken an active interest in the case even though a spokesperson said, "The ACCC has a policy that it neither confirms nor denies the existence of any investigations.”
While Watson would not divulge details about the meeting, he confirmed a lengthy and detailed interview took place.
“I am not sure what will happen from here (with the ACCC) but they have taken an active interest in the matter,” is all Watson said.
Watson claimed he was dismissed by Swatch management because he refused to enforce Swatch’s preferred retail price on retail stockists, which would prevent them from offering discounts on Swatch products to consumers.
Swatch has appointed high profile law firm Baker & McKenzie to represent it.
Jeweller has obtained official courts records from both sides and the allegations of price fixing by Swatch are explicitly detailed.
In the Second Further Amended Statement of Claim, Watson alleged that retailers who advertised Swatch watches at prices lower than the recommended retail price and lower than prices at Swatch Australia’s own retail stores were told they would no longer be supplied.
Watson’s Statement of Claim alleged that various Swatch overseas executives, including Kevin Rollenhagen, member of Swatch's Extended Management Board, Yann Gamard, member of Board of Directors, and the international Brand Managers, complained to him about discounting in Australia.
Specifically, the claim states that Gamard directed and/or required Watson at various times between 2005 and June 2008 to make it known to all Swatch retailers that Swatch would not supply retailers unless they agreed not to sell watches below their recommended retail prices and/or the Swatch store prices.
Such activity would be in breach of the Trade Practices Act, which aims to prevent businesses "fixing, controlling or maintaining" prices, because it constitutes a "substantial lessening of competition".
The Trade Practices Act does not allow resale price maintenance unless there is a benefit to the public: "A supplier must not directly or indirectly fix a price below which resellers may not sell or advertise their products or services, for example, by threatening to cut off supplies or actually cutting them off," it stated.
Watson said there was evidence to show that retailers were denied supply as a result of not adhering to Swatch’s pricing.
The case begins 1 February in the Victorian Count Court and is scheduled for 10 hearing days.
Posted January 19, 2010