Competition bodies to get more powers

THE recently passed Competition Amendment Act will give authorities far-reaching powers to go after companies engaged in collusive anti-competitive practices.

This means that the Competition Commission will be empowered to initiate investigations into "complex monopoly conduct" in concentrated markets.

In these markets the provision of goods or services falls to five firms or less, and these firms are found to conduct their affairs in an intentionally coordinated manner without necessarily discussing or formally agreeing on collusion.

Also, individual directors and managers will now be held directly responsible and liable for heavy penalties and possible jail sentence.

The act was signed into law by President Jacob Zuma in August last year, but is only expected to come into effect in the next few months.

This, however, will depend on the finalisation of regulations on how the Department of Economic Development (under which the competition authorities fall) interacts with the National Prosecuting Authority, which is responsible for prosecuting criminal conduct of directors.

This, according to most observers, is not necessarily the result of a rise in the incidence of collusion, but because of a public outcry.