Call for heavier penalty over bread prices

Isaac Moledi

Isaac Moledi

The Competition Tribunal upheld the R99 million fine Tiger Consumer Brands agreed to pay for its involvement in the price fixing of bread despite the uproar from consumer bodies and other pressure groups for a tougher penalty.

At its hearing in Pretoria this week, the tribunal confirmed the consent order which Tiger Consumer Brands concluded with the Competition Commission earlier this month to pay 5,7 percent of revenue from its national bread operations as a penalty for its unlawful collusion on bread prices with Premier Foods, Fedfoods and Pioneer Foods.

Pressure groups Cosatu, the Black Sash, the National Consumer Forum and the SA Human Rights Commission, who made submissions, called for a heavier penalty.

The NCF described the bread price fixing as a corporate abuse and a criminal act and called for the law to be enforced.

"As the case of bread price fixing has shown, we are still feeling the effects of this, and no doubt will continue to do so for many years," said the NCF chairman Thami Bolani.

"This hearing, and the process it is part of, represents the enforcement of the rights we have fought so hard to achieve.

"We believe, therefore, that the strongest message possible must be sent out from this forum - showing society that the new laws of a democratic South Africa cannot be flouted for financial gain," he added.

Bolani commended the fearless work of Imraahn Ismail-Mukaddam, who brought the price fixing complaint to the commission.

He said, however, that it was unacceptable that he has had to incur such personal and financial cost in the process.

According to Bolani, the power of corporations to intimidate and undermine small businesses through bullying tactics and unfair business practices needed to be addressed.

He also called for the streamlining and easy access of the process of lodging complaints.

"Companies use revenue from consumers to employ specialised people to protect their interests; consumers have no such resources to protect themselves, or to finance their efforts to seek redress," said Bolani.