Lancewood settles ahead of hearing

Tamlyn Stewart

Tamlyn Stewart

Milk processors charged with colluding on prices will appear before the Competition Tribunal today.

One of the alleged cartel members, Lancewood, negotiated a settlement agreement with the Competition Commission on Friday.

Lancewood admitted that it was involved in price information exchanges and agreed to pay a R100000 "administrative penalty". It also agreed to cooperate with the commission in its prosecution of the remaining respondents, the commission said on Friday.

"This is the first successful settlement negotiation we have concluded with one of the participants in the milk cartel," said commissioner Shan Ramburuth.

The seven remaining dairy processors - Clover Industries, Clover SA, Parmalat, Ladismith Cheese, Woodlands Dairy, Nestle SA and Milkwood Dairy - will deal with points in limine, or pre-trial issues, before the Competition Tribunal today.

"Technical legal points raised by other respondents have delayed the hearing into the merits of this case but will not deter us from prosecuting all companies colluding in this most basic of food products," Ramburuth said.

The commission began its investigation into anti-competitive behaviour in the milk industry in 2005.

It alleges its investigation found evidence of price fixing and the manipulation of the market to restrict competition.