Competition Commission welcomes High Court decision in margarine manufacturers’ cartel case
23 Mar 2017
The Competition Commission has welcomed the outcomes of the proceedings in the High Courts of South Africa, Kwazulu-Natal and Gauteng Divisions which prevented edible cooking oils and baking fats manufacturers accused of cartel conduct from effectively stopping the Commission’s investigation against them.
DH Brothers Industries (Pty) Ltd, trading as Willowton Oil and Cake Mills (Willowton), approached the High Court of South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal Division in Pietermaritzburg on 2 March 2017 seeking an order interdicting the Commission from reviewing the evidence it seized in their offices. The court ruled in favour of the Commission dismissing this application with costs and paving the way for the Commission to review the seized evidence as part of the investigation.
Wilmar Continental Edible Oils and Fats (Pty) Ltd (Wilmar) also approached the High Court of South Africa, Gauteng Division on 10 March 2017 seeking an order interdicting the Commission from reviewing the evidence it seized in their offices. The court ruled in favour of the Commission to allow the Commission to review the hard copies seized during the raid last year.
The Commission conducted the search and seizure operation on 8 December 2016, as part of its investigation of the alleged cartel by the five manufacturers of refined edible cooking oils, baking fats and margarine in South Africa.
The Commission maintains that it has reasonable grounds to suspect that Willowton, Wilmar Continental Edible Oils and Fats (Pty) Ltd (Wilmar), FR Waring Holdings (Pty) Ltd (FR Waring), Africa Sun Oil Refineries (Pty) Ltd (Africa Sun Oil) and Epic Foods (Pty) Ltd (Epic Foods) are engaged in cartel conduct which includes price fixing.
All of the companies, except Epic Foods, have approached the High Courts in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in a bid to interdict the Commission from reviewing the seized documents.
Africa Sun Oil is the latest firm to approach the High Court in KwaZulu-Natal in a bid to interdict the Commission from reviewing the seized documents. The Commission filed its answering papers with the High Court of South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal Division, in Pietermaritzburg on 20 March 2017 in order to oppose Africa Sun Oil application to interdict the Commission.
Further, the Commission will be filing its intention to oppose the application by FR Waring to set aside the search and seizure warrant by 22 March 2017 in the High Court of South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal Division, in Pietermaritzburg.
“The Commission obtained the search and seizure warrants from the High Courts in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng Divisions in terms of section 46 of the Competition Act. The search and seizure operation was conducted with due regard to the rights of all the affected persons. We will therefore not be swayed in our efforts to clamp down on the exploitation of consumers by cartels, particularly in the food and agro-processing sector,” said Commissioner, Tembinkosi Bonakele.(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)