Tackling monopolies one at a time
In the past four weeks alone, at least 19 emails from the Competition Commission landed in our mailbox, each making some sort of an announcement of the work that goes on within its offices.
The notices range from decisions on collusion by construction companies in tender at a paper plant in KwaZulu-Natal; boat operators colluding to fix prices on a Robben Island tender; and pay TV channel DStv Media Sales admitting guilt and paying a fine, to tender collusion relating to padlocks in Cape Town and the approval of mergers and acquisitions.
In the past two weeks, the commission held public hearings into grocery retail because it believes there are “features in the sector that may be preventing, distorting or restricting competition and, ultimately, adversely affect consumers and households”. The focus included the impact of national supermarket chains on townships, peri-urban areas and rural areas, and the informal economy. The outcomes are awaited.
It further announced that it had launched a probe into three big drug manufacturing firms for excessive pricing, discrimination and exclusionary conduct of breast cancer, lung cancer and other cancer-related medicines.
The commission deserves applause for becoming an activist for the citizenry, and taking on industries and shaking up long-established practices that were regarded as normal. It proves that if you want to take on monopolies, of whatever hue, it can be done.
Don’t decry “white monopoly capital” rhetorically. Use the instruments at our disposal.