Battery producers on price fixing rap
THE SA BATTERY Manufacturers’ Association (Sabma) has been ordered by the Competition Tribunal to disclose selected documents to the applicants in a complaint alleging price fixing and agreements to lessen competition in the sale and manufacturing of automotive batteries.
This follows an unsuccessful application brought to the tribunal by Sabma, its chairperson Glenn Llewellyn Geldenhuis and secretary Maria Da Fonseca for subpoenas against them to be set aside or alternatively for the request for certain documents in the subpoena to be set aside on the grounds that they predated the commencement of the Competition Act.
The subpoenas were issued by the tribunal on behalf of the South African Batteries Importers Association (Sabia), which with five other applicants lodged the initial automotive battery sector complaint. They alleged that members of Sabma had contravened the Competition Act by directly or indirectly fixing a purchase or selling price and agreements to lessen competition by battery producers.
Sabia referred the complaint to the tribunal after the Competition Commission had decided not to refer the complaint to the tribunal for prosecution.
It was alleged that the three battery producers fixed battery prices into the aftermarket, including the so-called battery scrap surcharge.
The scrap surcharge allegation was that First National Battery, Willard Batteries and Dixon Batteries agreed to fix the surcharge under the auspices of Sabma.
Two of Sabma’s three members, First National Battery, which is part of listed Metair Investments, and Powertech Industries, which trades as Willard Batteries, have settled with Sabia since the subpoenas. The tribunal has not been provided with details about this settlement. Donaventa Holdings, trading as Dixon Batteries, has not settled with Sabia.
The list of documents requested by Sabia was reduced from 27 to three. Sabma argued that the remaining documents were communications between Sabma and the International Trade Administration Commission of South Africa about the export of scrap batteries from South Africa and the imposition of increased tariffs on imported batteries, and were confidential.