The Court of Appeal has upheld the Competition and Markets Authority’s finding that golf equipment company Ping Europe Ltd acted illegally by banning online sales of its products.
The court’s judgment dismisses an appeal made by Ping Europe Ltd against an infringement decision, and a £1.25 million fine, after the CMA found it had broken competition law by stopping retailers from selling its clubs on their websites.
The move comes after the company’s initial appeal to the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) had been dismissed, in September 2018.
The ruling, upholding the CMA’s main finding and the CAT’s judgment, means Ping must now allow retailers to sell its products online, although Ping is planning to take the case to the Supreme Court.
Ann Pope, Senior Director for Antitrust Enforcement, said: “Twice now Ping Europe has appealed – and twice we’ve had our findings upheld that it broke the law by trying to stop online retailers from selling its golf clubs. This sends a clear and important message: companies that try to stop people from shopping online for their products could be breaking the law. We are determined that people should be able to shop around and enjoy the benefits of competition from online shops as well as in stores.”
Following the judgment, Ping Europe’s managing director, John Clarke, issued the following statement: “Ping Europe is very disappointed with the judgment of the Court of Appeal to uphold the CAT judgment and ultimately the CMA decision, which conclude that Ping Europe must allow its account holders to sell custom fitted golf clubs on the internet.
“Ping Europe passionately and fundamentally believes that every golfer should be custom fitted for their clubs before any purchase to ensure that they maximise the value from their purchase and play their best golf. This is what sets us apart in the market and what has allowed Ping to be a leading golf club brand. Since pioneering custom fitting more than 50 years ago, we’ve been committed to helping golfers play better and enjoy the game more by offering the most comprehensive, industry-leading custom fitting processes available.
“The position put forward by the CMA, and disappointingly followed by the courts, that the internet provides an appropriate and beneficial sales channel for almost every product the consumer can buy, regardless of its qualities or bespoke nature, appears to us as misguided. A Ping golf club is a highly technical and complex product which is manufactured and assembled to the precise specifications derived from each golfer’s individual characteristics and swing. The sale of this product from a website through which a person simply cannot receive a dynamic ‘in-person’ custom fitting, deprives Ping customers of the full benefits we design into each of our golf clubs. We do not believe that this decision is to the benefit or in the best interests of the consumer or the game of golf in Europe.”
Clarke concluded: “In light of this judgment, Ping Europe will be requesting permission from the Supreme Court to appeal. “We have an obligation to the Ping consumer and the vast majority of Ping Europe account holders who we know fully support our aim of achieving a 100% custom fitting rate for Ping clubs and the methods we employ to achieve this goal. The cornerstone of our business is focused on maximising the value we deliver to our consumers. After decades of growing our business by delivering individually custom fit clubs to our consumers, we remain hopeful that if permission is granted to appeal to the Supreme Court, our way of doing business by serving the consumer first will be upheld.”