THE Competition Commission has referred its findings in a cable cartel case for prosecution before the Competition Tribunal, asking for administrative penalties of 10% on the turnover of the companies involved, it said on Wednesday.
The commission found the firms fixed the selling prices of power cables to wholesalers, distributors, and original equipment manufacturers. The companies produce both high-voltage cables for industrial use and low- and medium-voltage cables for households.
Price fixing and market allocation robbed South Africans of access to markets and freedom to select goods and services at affordable prices, the commission said.
Important customers include power-supply authorities, municipalities, railway and transport authorities and construction companies.
Some of the affected commercial customers included Bidvest Group, ARB Holdings, Universal Cables, Trinity Cables and Electrobase.
The investigation into price collusion and market allocation contraventions started in March 2010 when one of the firms, Aberdare Cables, applied for leniency from prosecution. In exchange for the information that led to the uncovering of the cartel, Aberdare would not receive an administrative penalty.
Other firms that would appear before the tribunal during hearings were Alvern Cables, South Ocean Electric Wire and Tulisa Cables.
The commission raided their offices in May 2010, looking for evidence to support its probe.
Acting Competition Commission commissioner Thembinkosi Bonakele said in a statement on Wednesday the competition authorities had been working “tirelessly” to thwart any effort at undermining the country’s global position that provided value to businesses. “Our steadily growing economy can ill-afford rogue business practices.”
The commission found that the cartel members held regular meetings, sometimes in coffee shops, and had telephone conversations discussing price adjustments.
The conduct had been going on between 2001 and at least 2010.
The Competition Act was introduced in 1999.
Last year the commission referred a case to the Tribunal for prosecution against six companies it claimed were involved in a glass-products cartel.
The commission had found that between 1995 and 2007 cartel members had telephone conversations and held various “boys’ club” meetings where they fixed minimum selling prices of their glass products.
In the same year it settled with 15 construction companies for R1.5bn in penalties. The firms had admitted to fixing prices and rigging bids in the construction of roads, 2010 World Cup stadiums and other infrastructure projects.
Mr Bonakele encouraged people to alert the commission to anticompetitive behaviour, and to provide information that would help “uproot the unacceptable practices”.