President Jacob Zuma has signed the market inquiry provisions of the South African Competition Amendment Act of 2009 (“Amendment Act”) into force today, 8 March 2013.
The president set 1 April 2013, as the date on which section 6 of the Amendment Act will become effective.
Section 6 empowers the S.A. Competition Commission (“Commission”) to conduct an inquiry into the general state of competition in any market in South Africa, without referring to specific prohibited conduct or a particular firm. Under this provision, the Commission may initiate a market inquiry when it has reason to believe that any features of an identified market may be distorting or restricting competition in that market, e.g., where a market is not functioning optimally, but where no prohibited conduct, such as cartel activity, has been identified.
Section 6 also regulates how the Commission may conduct such market inquiries. More specifically, the Commission may use its powers to request information from firms but may not use its search and seizure (i.e., dawn raid) powers to gather information for a market inquiry.
At the conclusion of the market inquiry, the Commission must publish its findings and may also make recommendations to the Minister of Trade and Industry or other regulatory authorities relating to any competition matters identified.