Football fans who were unlawfully overcharged for replica shirts were urged this morning to join an unprecedented £20 million compensation claim against JJB Sports.
The retailer has already been fined £6.7 million by the Office of Fair Trading for running a cartel that unlawfully fixed the price of England and Manchester United shirts in 2000 and 2001.
Now the consumers’ group Which? is urging people who bought specified shirts to join a legal a representative action being launched at the Competition Appeals Tribunal.
The campaign group believes that as many as a million people could have been overcharged between £15 and £20 for the replica shirts.
Few people will have kept their receipts, but Ingrid Gubbay, a lawyer at Which?, said she hoped the tribunal would take a "benevolent attitude" towards the evidence.
Photographs might be acceptable, credit card statements or even a "statement of truth" — the modern equivalent of a sworn statement — though anyone who deliberately made a false claim would be guilty of perjury.
She said that consumers who registered their claims through the organisation’s website were at no risk of being ordered to pay costs if the action failed.
Although the consumers’ group is planning to launch legal action against JJB Sports, it will cover shirts bought from that retailer and the six other companies involved in the cartel — Allsports, Blacks Leisure Group, Manchester United, Sports Soccer, JD Sports and Umbro Holdings.
Which? is the first organisation in Britain to launch an action of this kind under new powers in the Enterprise Act 2002. The Act allows designated consumer bodies to bring a representative action once firms have been convicted of cartel activity and appeal proceedings have been concluded.
The action is being taken against JJB Sports because it was the only company still contesting the Office of Fair Trading’s decision at the time Which? was granted its new legal powers.
If JJB Sports is ordered to compensate consumers, it may try to claim some of the money back from other firms.
Malcolm Coles, from Which?, said: "We hope it will soon be payback time for JJB Sports. They ripped off their customers, so we think it’s only fair they should have to pay them back.
"A case like this has never been launched before, so we need as much evidence as we can get. If you bought an England or Manchester United football shirt in 2000 or 2001, register your claim at
"We can’t promise a big payout, but we’ll do all we can to get justice for consumers."
JJB Sports said it was is in consultation with its legal advisors about the Which? announcement and would make a formal response in due course.
The shirts covered by the action:
Shirts covered by the claim:
England white "home" shirt 1999-2001
England red "away" shirt 1999-2001
England white "home" shirt 2001-2003
Manchester United red "home" shirt 2000-2001 and 2001-2002
Manchester United blue "away" shirt 2000-2001
Manchester United reversible (white/gold) "Centenary" shirt 2001-2002
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