Topfield guilty of price fixing and fined $297,500

A $297,500 fine has been handed to Digital Products Group Pty Limited, the Australian distributor of Topfield branded set-top boxes and personal video recorders, for resale price maintenance.

The penalty was imposed by Justice Tracey of the Federal Court yesterday, after the company was found guilty contravening section 48 of the Trade Practices Act 1974 “by attempting to induce and inducing a certain retailer not to advertise certain Topfield digital set-top boxes below their respective recommended retail prices,” according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

The contraventions took place over the period from October 2003 to June 2005, in which Digital Products Group, in its dealings with a Melbourne-based retailer, on two occasions attempted to induce and on 17 occasions induced the retailer not to advertise certain Topfield digital set-top boxes at prices less than those specified by the manufacturer.

Digital Products Group’s sole director, Jai Kemp, admitted to the court to be knowingly concerned in 11 of the resale price-fixing instances, and was fined $42,000. Digital Product Group’s national sales manager, Mark Dopson, admitted being knowingly concerned in nine of the instances, and was fined $17,500. The company itself was fined $238,000, plus court costs.

As well as the fine, Digital Products Group has been ordered to implement a trade practices compliance program within the company, to prevent them from engaging in similar conduct in the future.

“We made a bit of a boo boo – it was back in 2003, and we were young and naïve,” Kemp told Current.com.au in October.

In a similar court case in 2005, Humax Pty Ltd and its director, Andrew Song, were ordered to pay $150,000 for attempting to induce retailers of a Humax high-end digital set-top box not to sell it under the recommended retail price of $599.

Humax is now involved in a trade practices compliance program.

Earlier this week, the ACCC announced it will pursue the former general manager and current national sales manager of Navman Australia – the local distributor of in car and personal navigation products.

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