France Fines World's Top Modeling Agencies and Union 2.4m Euros for Price Fixing

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On September 29, the Autorité de la concurrence (French competition authority) fined the main professional union of modeling agencies, the SYNAM, “for having, between 2000 and 2010, drawn up and distributed pricing schedules as a guide to modeling agencies’ commercial policy.” Advertisers and couture houses could refer to these schedules when setting prices for filming, advertising photos and catwalk shows. 37 modeling agencies, representing almost the entire market turnover, were also fined for having participated in meetings on union pricing schedules.

Pricing schedules drawn up by the professional union

Shortly after the obligatory annual negotiations on models’ minimum salaries, as per the collective agreement, the professional union drew up and distributed pricing schedules. The union was ambiguous as to the “official” nature of these pricing schedules, which not only covered minimum salary, but also established the total price that clients were invoiced for modeling services, with variations of up to three times minimum salary. The schedules were distributed to union members by letter, email and on the union website.

The agencies’ role in the union pricing schedules

37 agencies representing almost the whole market, took part in meetings during which they voted on increasing the Synam (union) prices and/or discussed a rule regarding the ban on distributing their own pricing schedules.  Evidence of price fixing can be seen in the statements made by several of the agencies: “We charge the rates that everyone charges, namely the rates distributed by the Synam.” So, the pricing schedules were used as a reference for negotiations with clients. The Autorité determined that this practice amounted to price fixing and reduced competition. The union and 37 agencies were fined.

Fines

The largest fine of 600,000 euros was imposed on the Marilyn Agency, which represents Claudia Schiffer, Bar Refaeli, Maggie Rizer, and Eva Herzigova, among other top models.  Elite, IMG and Next (representing  Kate Moss, Gigi Hadid and Karlie Kloss) were fined 80 – 300,000 euros. The union itself, Synam, was fined 50,000 euros.

At the end of the period the Autorité investigated, the worldwide turnover of the agencies involved was some 150 millions euros. In 2015, the minimum rate to hire models for fashion shows and publicity campaigns was 91.80 euros for a rookie and 176.90 for a more experienced model.
The model had to be paid at least 64 percent of the price paid to the agency by the client, the report states.

> See full text (French) of decision n° 16-D-20 du 29 septembre 2016 concerning practices in sector of services provided by model agencies 

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