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Nine West Group Inc.; Analysis To Aid Public Comment

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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AGENCY:

Federal Trade Commission

ACTION:

Proposed consent agreement.

SUMMARY:

The consent agreement in this matter settles alleged violations of federal law prohibiting unfair or deceptive acts or practices or unfair methods of competition. The attached Analysis to Aid Public Comment describes both the allegations in the draft complaint that accompanies the consent agreement and the terms of the consent order—embodied in the consent agreement—that would settle these allegations.

DATES:

Comments must be received on or before April 5, 2000.

ADDRESSES:

Comments should be directed to: FTC/Office of the Secretary, Room 159, 600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. 20580.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Richard Parker, FTC/H-374, 600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. 20580. (202) 326-2574.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Pursuant to Section 6(f) of the Federal Trade Commission Act, 38 Stat. 721, 15 U.S.C. 46 and Section 2.34 of the Commission's Rules of Practices (16 CFR 2.34), notice is hereby given that the above-captioned consent agreement containing a consent order to cease and desist, having been filed with and accepted, subject to final approval, by the Commission, has been placed on the public record for a period of thirty (30) days. The following Analysis to Aid Public Comment describes the terms of the consent agreement, and the allegations in the complaint. An electronic copy of the full text of the consent agreement package can be obtained from the FTC Home Page (for March 6, 2000), on the World Wide Web, at “http://www.ftc.gov/​ftc/​formal.htm. A paper copy can be obtained from the FTC Public Reference Room, Room H-130, 6000 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20580, either in person or by calling (202) 326-3627.

Public comment is invited. Comments should be directed to: FTC/Office of the Secretary, Room 159, 600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. 20580. Two paper copies of each comment should be filed, and should be accompanied, if possible, by a 31/2 inch diskette containing an electronic copy of the comment. Such comments or views will be considered by the Commission and will be available for inspection and Start Printed Page 13387copying at its principal office in accordance with Section 4.9(b)(6)(ii) of the Commission's Rules of Practice (16 CFR 4.9(b)(6)(ii)).

Analysis of Proposed Consent Order To Aid Public Comment

The Federal Trade Commission (“the Commission”) has accepted, subject to final approval, an agreement from Nine West Group Inc. (“Nine West”) to a proposed consent order. The agreement settles charges by the Commission that Nine West violated Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act by entering into vertical agreements that restricted retail price competition in the sale of women's shoes. Nine West is a major manufacturer and seller of women's shoes and sells shoes under the “Easy Spirit,” “Enzo Angiolini,” “Bandolino,” cK/Calvin Klein,” “Pappagallo,” “Selby,” “Amalfi,” “Calico,” “Evan-Picone,” “Westies,” “Capezio,” “Joyce,” and “9 Co.” labels. Jones Apparel Group, Inc., purchased Nine West in July of 1999, and is a signatory to the consent agreement, but none of the conduct alleged in the complaint occurred after the purchase.

The proposed consent order has been placed on the public record for thirty days for receipt of comments by interested persons. Comments received during this period will become part of the public record. After thirty days, the Commission will again review the agreement and the comments received and will decide whether it should withdraw from the agreement or make final the agreement's proposed order.

The purpose of this analysis is to invite public comment on the proposed order. This analysis is not intended to constitute an official interpretation of the agreement and proposed order or to modify their terms in any way. Further, the proposed consent order has been entered into for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by Nine West that the law has been violated as alleged in the complaint.

The Complaint

Nine West Group is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in White Plains, New York. Nine West sells women's footwear to retail outlets throughout the United States, including many of the nation's largest department stores.

The complaint alleges that beginning in January 1988 and continuing until at least July 31, 1999, Nine West entered into agreements with certain retailers that fixed, raised, and stabilized retail prices to consumers. Nine West adopted pricing policies that determine which shoes the retailer could not discount or promote outside of specified times. Nine West did not merely announce these policies and terminate a retailer that did not adhere to them, which would have been lawful, but instead Nine West sought agreement from these dealers on future pricing. For example, Nine West suspended shipments and said it would resume them only if the dealer promised not to violate the policy again. Nine West also coerced compliance by threatening to withhold discounts or advertising funds if the dealer refused to comply with a pricing policy. Retailers communicated to Nine West that they would adhere to the pricing policies.

The Proposed Consent Order

The proposed consent order is designed to prevent Nine West from agreeing with its dealers to set prices. Paragraph II of the order prohibits Nine West from fixing, controlling, or maintaining the retail price of women's footwear. It also prohibits Nine West from coercing or pressuring any dealer to maintain, adopt, or adhere to any resale price. Nine West also may not secure or attempt to secure commitments or assurances from any dealer concerning resale prices. Finally, Paragraph II prohibits Nine West, for a period of ten years, from notifying a dealer in advance that the dealer is subject to a temporary suspension of supply (e.g., no shoes shipped for six months) or a partial suspension (e.g., no orders of Easy Spirit loafers) if the dealer sells Nine West shoes below a designated price.

Paragraph III of the order requires that for a period of five years from the date on which the order becomes final, Nine West shall clearly and conspicuously include a statement on any list, advertising, book, catalogue, or promotional material where it has suggested any resale price for any Nine West product to any dealer. The required statement explains that while Nine West may suggest resale prices for its products, dealers remain free to determine on their own the prices at which they will sell and advertise Nine West's products.

Paragraph IV of the order requires Nine West to mail a letter (see attachment A) to its retailers with a copy of the Commission's order. The letter states that while Nine West may send materials to them with suggested retail prices, they are free to sell and advertise at a price they choose. Paragraph V requires that the same letter with a copy of the Commission's order be sent to new employees of Nine West.

Paragraph VI of the order requires Nine West to notify the Commission at least thirty days prior to any proposed changes in the corporation, such as dissolution or sale. Paragraph VII consists of standard Commission reporting and compliance procedures. Finally, Paragraph VIII contains a standard “sunset provision,” under which the terms of the order terminate twenty years after the date of issuance.

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By direction of the Commission.

Donald S. Clark,

Secretary.

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Statement of Commissioners Orson Swindle and Thomas B. Leary

We have voted to accept the consent agreement for public comment because we have reason to believe that the conduct engaged in by Nine West falls outside the limited zone of protection afforded by the Colgate doctrine,[1] and thus is per se illegal under current law. We do not mean to indicate agreement, however, with the artificial analysis mandated by the Colgate doctrine or with the overboard per se condemnation resale price maintenance (“RPM”), which the Colgate doctrine mitigates to some degree.

We do not know what conclusion we might have reached had Nine West's behavior been analyzed under the rule of reason, because that question did not arise. Nevertheless, one can easily posit instances of minimum RPM that involve a mixture of procompetitive and anticompetitive effects, like any other vertical restraint, and undercut the continuing validity of the per se rule against the practice. Several years ago, the Supreme Court took the beneficial step of reexamining the overruling the doctrine that condemned maximum RPM as per se illegal.[2] When an appropriate case arises, we believe that the Court should continue this healthy trend by reassessing the even hoarier per se treatment of minimum RPM.[3]

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Footnotes

1.  United States v. Colgate Co., 250 U.S. 300 (1919).

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2.  State Oil Co. v. Khan, 522 U.S. 3 (1997), overruling Albrecht v. Herald Co., 390 U.S. 145 (1968).

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3.  Dr. Miles Medical Co. v. John D. Park Sons Co. 220 U.S. 373 (1911).

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[FR Doc. 00-6044 Filed 3-10-00; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 6750-01-M