As the local Daily Monitor reports, landlocked COMESA member state Uganda — ruled since January 1986 by authoritarian president Museveni — has failed to make requisite payments under the COMESA Treaty to the supra-national regional organization. Its arrears date back over two years, according to sources, and amount to roughly U.S. $4 to 5 million. Arrears carry with them a 1% per annum interest rate.
COMESA’s Secretary General has officially reprimanded the Ugandan government and placed the nation on the organization’s “sanction bracket.”Andreas Stargard, an attorney with Africa boutique law firm Primerio Ltd., notes that being sanctioned carries with it the nation-state’s loss of all privileges of COMESA membership, including its key free-trading benefits, during the duration of the sanctions being imposed. “It also means that Ugandan officials are not permitted to address official COMESA bodies, nor are Ugandan citizens permitted to be appointed to, or hired by, COMESA organs. It remains to be seen whether this suspension of Uganda will impact competition-law enforcement in any direct, appreciable way — what comes to mind is merger notification and the impact that Uganda’s being sanctioned may have on cooperation between the CCC and Ugandan authorities.”
The outstanding debt is all the more concerning as Museveni’s administration, in an attempt to cling to power after 35 years, recently reportedly spent large sums out of the state’s coffers on military-grade weaponry to prepare for the chaos precipitated by the recent hotly-disputed elections.
February 17th, 2021: TODAY, the COMESA Competition Commission (“Commission”) released the following statement, wishing “to inform the general public that the tenure of office of Dr George Lipimile who was the Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Commission for the past ten years, came to an end on 31st January 2021.“
Dr Lipimile was appointed by the COMESA Council of Ministers as the first Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Commission in February 2011. He served in this capacity at the Commission for ten years during which time he played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Commission as the first fully operational regional competition authority in Africa and the second fully functional regional competition authority in the world after the European Commission. Dr Lipimile tirelessly worked towards the enforcement of the COMESA Competition Regulations and Rules. He dedicated his time at the Commission in strengthening the institution with but not limited to:
Growth in its staff compliment;
Creating sound legal framework;
Processes and Procedures for enforcement of the Regulations;
Advocacy and technical assistance to COMESA Member States; and
Setting up the necessary corporate governance systems.
Further, the Commission wishes to announce to the general public that Dr Willard Mwemba has been appointed as the Acting Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Commission from 1st February 2021 until such time the substantive Director of the Commission is recruited. The Commission wishes to congratulate Dr Mwemba on his appointment as the Acting Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Commission.
Andreas Stargard, a Primerio competition lawyer who knows both men from having notified transactions to the CCC as well as socially, says that “an era is now concluded — namely the ‘Genesis Era’ of the CCC, as George was its very first, and thus formative, leader. That said, I am deeply assured by the appointment of Dr. Mwemba to his post as acting Director, as he is of utmost competence and I have no doubt will guide the Commission in the right direction in this new ‘CCC 2.0 Era’ after Dr. Lipimile’s departure.”
Africa is a continent of 1.2 billion people. From a consumer potential standpoint it matches China or India. Yet historically, it has suffered from the lingering shadows of its colonial past, in addition to its current fractures, hostility, and ever-present corruption.
The continent is emerging fast, however, and is quickly accelerating into the 21st Century marketplace both from an investment and growth opportunity. From the digital revolution and increased free trade, to innovation in various industries, Africa may be the next market frontier to unfold into accelerated multinational presence.
In this podcast episode (available gratis on Apple, Spotify, and Sheppard Mullin‘s web site), Michael P.A. Cohen is joined by Africa competition and markets expert, Andreas Stargard, as he shares his insight to help multinationals navigate the African landscape.
What do the Africa markets look like from a multinational business opportunity perspective?
Which countries in Africa have established markets? Which ones have growth potential?
How and why has China’s investment and influence across Africa intensified over the last couple of decades?
What type of digital revolution is taking place in Africa?
Is there a huge opportunity for mobile money on the continent?
How is free trade shaping up across the African continent? How do the AfCFTA’s goals tie in?
What Free Trade cooperation agreements exist among the East, West and South African nations? Will they succeed?
Where is Africa leading innovations?
How will African wars and corruption impact its ability to grow a multinational marketplace?
Michael Cohenis the creator of the Nota Bene podcast. He began his career as an Assistant Special Prosecutor, investigating and prosecuting organized crime involvement with the failure of local financial institutions in the early 1990s, and has since practiced globally at several top law firms. In 2015, Michael joined Sheppard Mullin’s storied antitrust practice with a goal of putting his 25 years experience to work to complement the firm’s longstanding antitrust litigation group, helping to bridge government antitrust enforcement in Washington, D.C. to the firm’s strengths in Brussels, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
A co-founding senior member of Primerio, a business advisory firm helping companies do business within Africa from a global perspective, Andreas Stargard is legal, strategic, and business advisor to companies and individuals across the globe. He focuses on antitrust and competition advice, white-collar counseling, contract dispute and negotiation, and resolution of global business disputes, including cartel work, corruption allegations and internal investigations, intellectual property, and distribution matters. He has written and spoken extensively on these topics and many others. Andreas also advises clients on corporate compliance programmes that conform to local as well as global government standards, and has handled key strategic merger-notification questions, including evaluation of filing requirements, avoidance strategies, cross-jurisdictional cooperation, and the like.
Following the (thus far rarely used) “Block Exemption” procedure under Section 30 (2) of the Kenyan Competition Act, the Competition Authority of Kenya (“CAK”) has proposed a new set of draft Guidelines as to competitor collaborations during the COVID-19 pandemic, so as to assist with the country’s economic recovery efforts. It specifies five (5) focus sectors, namely Manufacturing, Private Healthcare, Aviation, Travel & Hospitality, and Health Research. The Guidelines are ostensibly inapplicable to firms that engage in economic activity outside these five sectors.
In issuing its soon-to-be finalized guidance, the CAK wishes to provide “direction to undertakings in making a self-assessment as to whether the agreements, decisions or practices which they intend entering into will qualify for block exemption within the Covid-19 Economic Recovery Context without the need to seek the Authority’s intervention.” (A.(4))
A key aspect, in the view of antitrust litigator Andreas Stargard, is the renewed attention given to “public-interest factors” in competition law.
He believes that this concession to non-traditional competition-law theory is “necessitated by the broad economic havoc COVID-19 has wrought, including on historically peripheral-to-antitrust aspects such as overall employment, public health, en masse business closures, and the like, which would normally not be highly relevant factors in the strict sense of conducting a rigorous competition-law analysis.”
Stargard continues that “Condition III of the CAK’s so-called ‘Self-Assessment Principles‘ expressly highlights this element, namely forcing firms to evaluate whether their proposed collaboration with competitive entities is ‘in the public interest, such as creation of employment’,” citing para. 11(vii) of the draft Block Exemption Guidelines on Certain Covid-19 Economic Recovery Priority Sectors.
The concept of non-competition factors (i.e., the public-interest element) was also raised, as there is a “growing debate on whether the pandemic may necessitate changes in [the] substantive assessment of mergers, e.g., towards more lenient consideration of failing firms.”
As Andreas Stargard observes, “just as COVID-19 is truly global, Kenya and COMESA are likewise not alone in their quest to master the difficult balancing act between sufficiently enforcing their domestic or regional antitrust laws versus allowing reasonable accommodations to be made for necessary competitor collaborations in light of the pandemic’s impact. Indeed, other enforcers have also made accommodations for such unusual collaborative efforts, given the emergency nature of the pandemic.”
In the U.S., the federal antitrust agencies have issued analogous guidance for competitors, issuing a joint guidance document specifically on health-care providers collaborating on necessary public-health initiatives. What stands out is the agencies’ express invitation for health-care players to take advantage of the (now-expedited to 7 days’ turnaround time) business-review/opinion-letter procedures. Mr. Stargard notes however that, unlike the Kenyan proposal of “self-assessment“by the affected entities, the American approach still necessitates an affirmative approach of the enforcers by the parties, seeking official sanctioning of their proposed cooperation by submitting a detailed explanation of the planned conduct, together with its rationale and expected likely effects.
By way of further example, in Canada, as the OECD notes, the government “has developed a ‘whole-of-government action’ based on seven guiding principles including collaboration. This principle calls on all levels of government and stakeholders to work in partnership to generate an effective and coherent response. These principles build on lessons learned from past events, particularly the 2003 SARS outbreak, which led to dedicated legislation, plans, infrastructure, and resources to help ensure that the country would be well prepared to detect and respond to a future pandemic outbreak.”
As of January 1st, 2021, Kenya’s competition-law enforcer, the Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK), started benefitting from its new “Informant Reward Scheme” (IRS). The IRS encourages “confidential informants” — often also referred to as “whistleblowers” — privy to inside information about antitrust offenses to come forward and report the illicit conduct to the Authority.
The IRS incentivizes informants with promises of anonymity as well as — rather modest, as we will see — monetary rewards: the CAK vows to maintain the confidentiality of the informant’s identity, and provides for up to Sh1,000,000 (approximately US$9,100 at today’s Fx rate).
Andreas Stargard, a competition lawyer active on the African continent, has delved more deeply into the CAK’s enabling “Guidelines” document, trying to ascertain the precise contours of the IRS program. He reports as follows:
AfricanAntitrust.com: “Who is eligible to participate in the IRS?”
Andreas Stargard: “What we know from the implementing Guidelines, and also from Director General Kariuki‘s speech on the IRS, is that only third parties or those individuals playing merely a remote and peripheral role in relation to the anti-competitive conduct are eligible to benefit from the IRS. This means that a 3rd-party customer, or a non-executive employee such as a secretary or copy clerk of the offending company, may report wrongdoing under the IRS.”
AAT: “What about insiders with executive authority, then?”
Stargard: “Similar to Western countries’ antitrust regimes, those individuals can still report illicit conduct by their employers, but they would have to resort to the Kenyan leniency process as opposed to the Informant Reward Scheme.”
AAT: “Understood. Are there other, similar whistleblower schemes in existence?”
Stargard: “Yes. We recently held a very timely webinar with leading international and African experts on the topic of whistleblowing, which I moderated. A recording of it is available on the web. Whistleblowing has become an important piece of the enforcement puzzle for many governmental authorities around the globe, not only on competition issues. In Kenya, specifically, President Kenyatta recently doubled the rewards for tax-fraud whistleblowers, who are now entitled to receive up to Sh5,000,000 ($45,000), and the country’s revenue service implemented the so-called iWhistle portal to allow informants to report tax fraud anonymously.”
AAT: “Speaking of money, what is your take on the amount of the offered reward under the terms of the IRS?”
Stargard: “Frankly speaking, one million Kenyan shillings is a paltry sum. I cannot comprehend how reporting a competition-law violation such as a price-fixing cartel that may cost the Kenyan economy and its consumers billions in losses is deserving of 5-times less reward than an informant reporting an individual’s tax fraud to the revenue service, which may cause significantly less injury to the government purse than an international cartel of corporates…”
AAT: “Strong words.”
Stargard: “I’m serious. Compare and contrast the meager sum of not even US$10,000 maximum IRS reward with the potential 5-year prison sentence liability for executives convicted of collusion! There is simply no comparison…”
AAT: “In a perfect world, what would you change about the Kenyan whistleblower scheme?”
Stargard: “If I had had any input into the process of devising the IRS Guidelines, I would have ensured that the maximum reward amount be commensurate with the economic harm and financial damage done by cartels — in short, I would raise the IRS reward to an un-capped straight-up percentage portion of the fines recovered by the CAK. The more, the better for everyone.”
AAT: “Do you have any parting words or final observations on the IRS program for our readers?”
Stargard: “Well, for starters, it is not too late to implement changes to the regime. The CAK (and the legislature, to the extent necessary) can easily increase the maximum reward, as I proposed earlier. I am certain that it would yield better results than the current Sh1m cap, which can easily be ‘outbid’ by an already-corrupt employer, seeking to ‘buy’ its employees’ loyalty! So, Mr. Kariuki, if you’re reading this interview, I’d strongly suggest considering an increase in the reward.
Secondly, from our international experience, we know one thing about ‘secret’ informant schemes: One key element of any successful whistleblower regime (besides ensuring adequate rewards) is the strictest maintenance of confidentiality of the informant’s identity. I realize that section ‘F’ of the Guidelines assures the public that anonymity will be guaranteed and that the CAK will ‘take utmost care to ensure that the identity of the confidential informant is not disclosed.’ However, as an attorney, I can only say that the proof is in the pudding. We will have to wait for the first proceedings pursuant to IRS-provided reports, in order to determine whether or not the whistleblowers’ anonymity will indeed be preserved successfully in practice. That said, I look forward to advising clients on the many issues that are likely going to arise from the Scheme!”
AAT: “Thank you for your time and insights on this new development!”
The COMESA Competition Commission has announced that it is accepting applications for the position of Director of the CCC until the end of October. Says Andreas Stargard, an antitrust practitioner with Primerio Ltd.:
“The post is currently held by Dr. George Lipimile, the agency’s first and, therefore by definition, most influential chief. Dr. Lipimile has certainly steered the comparatively young Commission into the right direction during its formative years, notably overseeing a complete makeover of the merger-notification procedure early on in the process, after much criticism of the initial system.
We are curious to see who will replace him in March 2021, as Dr. Lipimile’s term expires at the end of February. Will it be a true competition-law expert, or will it be a politically-motivated appointment made by the COMESA Secretariat, pushing for someone who is more of a trade lawyer or, worse, economic protectionist. What the CCC needs now to continue gaining international recognition and respect (from its peer agencies, as well as from commercial parties!) is a qualified antitrust attorney who understands the law & economics aspect of competition practice, and who will apply these principles neutrally throughout the COMESA region!”
George Lipimile, CEO, COMESA Competition Commission
“If the CCC steps up its enforcement game in the non-transactional arena, it could become a true force to reckon with in the West. I can envision a scenario where the CCC becomes capable of launching its own cartel matters and oversees a full-on leniency regime, not having to rely on the ‘follow-on enforcement’ experience from other agencies abroad. The CCC has great potential, but it must ensure that it fulfills it by showing principled deliberation and full transparency in all of its actions — otherwise it risks continued doubt from outsiders.”
It remains to be seen who the Director’s replacement will be and which of these topics will dominate her or his agenda, if any. The Director’s term is for 5 years, offering a salary of between $70,000 and $83,000. Details on the opening can be found here. Only Member State nationals can apply. Interestingly, COMESA member states’ antitrust enforcers likewise posted the announcement on their individual web sites:
The COMESA Competition Commission (CCC) has, along with several other competition-law enforcers on the African continent, issued new guidance on timing and other implications relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. The text of the official announcement is below:
NOTICE OF INTERIM MEASURES IN MERGER REVIEW OF THE COMESA COMPETITION COMMISSION DUE TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
The COMESA Competition Commission (the Commission) is aware that these are unprecedented, uncertain and challenging times for undertakings and other stakeholders. In view of this, the Commission wishes to notify the general public and all interested parties that as a result of the global Covid-19 pandemic it has issued the following interim processes for merger reviews under the COMESA Competition Regulations (the Regulations) and the COMESA Competition Rules (the “Rules”).
Receipt of Merger Notifications
Parties to a Merger are encouraged to submit all notifications and filing of mergers and acquisitions electronically including certified copies of filings. This therefore means that the parties shall not be expected to submit the hard copies within the specified 7 days under the COMESA Merger Assessment Guidelines. The hard copies may still be submitted by the parties at a later date when it is possible under the circumstances.
Notification of a Merger following a Decision to Merge by the Parties
Pursuant to Article 24 (1) of the Regulations, parties to a merger should notify the Commission within 30 days of the decision to merge. The Commission takes cognizant that due to restrictions of movements and lockdowns in most countries as a result of the CoVID-19 Pandemic, some parties may not be able to gather all the information to enable them complete the notification within the 30 days period provided under Article 24(1) of the Regulations. The Commission is cognizant that section 5 of the Guidelines provides for the notification process and gives guidance to what amounts to a complete notification. During this temporal period, the Commission shall consider the initial engagement with the parties as the beginning of the notification process which shall be considered complete once all the information is submitted. It follows therefore that as long as the parties have engaged the Commission on the notification process, they shall not be penalized for failure to submit complete information within 30 days of the parties’ decision to merge.
Consultations and Meetings
The Commission has suspended onsite investigations and face-to-face meetings with regard to merger investigations. However, consultations and meetings shall continue to be held through teleconferencing facilities until the situation normalises.
Investigation Period of 120 Days
The Commission observes that under the current situation, it may not be able to complete its assessment of mergers and acquisitions that has been notified and yet to be notified in accordance with the 120 days stipulated under Article 25 (1) of the Regulations. This is due to travel bans and lockdowns in most Member States. These conditions shall affect the Commission’s engagements with various relevant stakeholders who are essential in the consultative process adopted by the Commission pursuant to Article 26 of the Regulations. Therefore, the merging parties should take note that the 120 days investigation period may be extended in some cases pursuant to Article 25 (2) of the Regulations as it may not be practicable to complete the assessment within 120 days under the circumstances.
If you wish to seek further details and/or clarifications on any aspect of this Notice, you may get in touch with Mr. Willard Mwemba, Manager, Mergers and Acquisitions, on +265 (0) 1 772 466 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or email@example.com.
Further, note that the Commission may update and revise this notice from time to time.
In December 2019, the CAK approved the merger between two Kenyan telecom firms, Airtel and Telkom Kenya, subject to a number of wide ranging conditions.
The merging parties, however, were not satisfied with the conditions and have decided to take the CAK’S decision on review to the Competition Tribunal. Kenya’s Competition Tribunal was fully constituted and became operational in May 2019 after four members were appointed to the panel.
In terms of the Kenyan Competition Act, any party aggrieved by a decision of the CAK in relation to a merger has 30 days to file for a review of that merger before the Tribunal. The 30 days period commences from the date the CAK’s decision is published in the gazette. Accordingly, although the merger was formally approved in October 2019, the merging parties had to wait until December 2019 for the gazette, containing the CAK’s decision, to be published before a notice for review could be filed.
The Tribunal has a broad range of powers and may overturn, amend or confirm the decision of the CAK. The Tribunal may also, if it considers it appropriate to do so, refer the matter back to the CAK for reconsideration of certain issues.
Turning to the conditions themselves, one of the contentious conditions relates to having the spectrum revert back to the government upon expiry of the merging parties’ license.
This is concerning as it is the Communications Authority of Kenya that issues and renews licences. The spectrum allocation by Communication Authority is an asset in the hands of the holder. Assuming that the spectrum is being utilized in accordance with the licence, ordinarily renewal is guaranteed.
The CAK’s decision that the license must revert back to the government is concerning as it seems to overlap with the Communications Authority’s mandate. John Oxenham, a director of Primerio, says that the interplay and conflict between the roles of competition and communications agencies are not unique to Kenya. In South Africa there have also been a number of issues which have raised as to which agency is best suited to assess ‘competition law matters’. A memorandum of understanding between the South African Competition Commission and the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has been concluded in an effort to ensure consistency and enhanced collaboration between the two agencies in this regard.
The CAK’s conditions in this merger seem to be at odds with the CAK’s approach adopted in previous matters. For instance, when Yui exited the Kenyan market, both Airtel and Safaricom acquired Yu’s assets (including licenses). Although Safaricom had a larger chunk of the 2G spectrum, the CAK did not seem to take Safaricom’s market size into account when these assets were acquired. Perhaps the CAK appreciates that there was a missed opportunity.
This is will be the Tribunal’s first opportunity to review the CAK’s decision relating to a merger and it will be interesting to see how robustly the Tribunal scrutinizes the CAK’s decision with reference to economic evidence. As competition lawyer Michael-James Currie points out, unfortunately, the CAK does not publish detailed reasons which underpin its decisions and it is, therefore, often difficult to fully appreciate the CAK’s reasoning or assess whether the CAK’s decision is sufficiently supported by the underlying evidence. Hopefully the Tribunal’s reasons in this matter will be more comprehensive, thereby contributing positively to creating precedent.
Currie also points out that the CAK imposed a public interest condition relating to a moratorium of any merger specific retrenchments for a two year period. The merging parties are appealing this condition as well and have proposed that the moratorium be reduced to 12 months. The role of public interest factors in merger control has been materially influenced by the South African merger control regime where employment related conditions are a common feature in merger conditions. Moreover, two year moratoriums is usually the ‘benchmark’ standard although moratoriums ranging from 3-5 years have also been imposed on parties in South Africa. It will be interesting to gauge the Tribunal’s approach to public interest factors and whether we will see a unique approach to the assessment of such conditions or whether the Tribunal is likely to follow the South African approach.
[Ruth is a Primerio competition law practitioner based in Nairobi, Kenya.]
The Egyptian Competition Authority (ECA) is not known to be an aggressive enforcer, nor to have issued many merger prohibition decisions. In the ride-sharing saga of Uber’s proposed 2018 acquisition of regional competitor “Careem”, however, the ECA stepped in, rather uncharacteristically, notes African competition lawyer Andreas Stargard. He sums up the past history of the deal as follows:
“The Authority initially learned of the proposed transaction through leaked media reports in July and again more concretely in September. As the parties had not yet closed (and thus did not need to file a mandatory notification, as Egypt is a post-closing notification jurisdiction) the ECA took the highly unusual step of investigating sua sponte, prohibiting the contemplated deal ex ante. In its original administrative decree taken against the two firms, the ECA acknowledged in its opinion (only available in Arabic) that its competence is only that of a post-merger review body. Yet, the Authority based its administrative decision on the fact that it is able to take judicial notice of public facts, such as the Uber/Careem negotiation press reports, and that the companies did not deny their existence when the ECA inquired.
It therefore initiated a hypothetical analysis of the transaction, were it to proceed, on available data (including from other jurisdictions such as Singapore), concluding that, and based on the (would-be) parties’ size in the market and other ‘obvious evidence’, a merger would likely lead to unavoidable harm to competition and consumer welfare. The ECA based its decision on multiple provisions of competition law, including the new amendment to Article 20; Article 5 (extraterritoriality), Article 4 of the Investment Law protecting the Free competition in the market; Article 5 of the executive regulations (related parties), and even Article 6 (cartels), as well as quoting multiple foreign legal sources, such as the OECD’s research papers on ride-sourcing services and on two-sided markets. Accordingly, the ECA ordered that, in light of the application of Article 20, both companies and their related parties were obligated to present a merger notification to the ECA for any transaction, even if concluded abroad, and to include with their notification all preliminary agreements struck during the negotiations, as well as the usual market share data, turnover, etc.”
This outlier of a decision highlights the relevance of car-hailing services to the Egyptian economy, especially the critical markets of Cairo and Alexandria, as well as “the importance of parties’ ensuring to keep deal negotiations secret or, at a minimum, making proactive efforts to make pre-filing contacts with the relevant antitrust enforcement agency, so as to avoid results such as this,” says Mr. Stargard. Historically, most ECA notifications have gone through the review process without substantive competition concerns being raised, assuming there are no dominant market shares or third-party complaints involved. Here, the mega deal combined the world’s largest ride-sharing company with the region’s biggest, as Dubai-based Careem has more than a million drivers and 30 million users across 90 cities.
In the ECA’s now-reversed course, the regulator approved the $3.1 billion deal (of which $1.4bn will be paid in cash), subsequent to Uber’s commitments to ensure competition in the regional market remained intact. These include abolishing exclusivity provisions in their contracts, reducing barriers to entry, agreeing to price concessions (capping annual increases and limiting surge pricing) and submitting monthly ride data reports to an independent monitoring trustee to be approved by the ECA for a term of either five years or until Uber/Careem’s competition obtains 20% of weekly rides individually (or 30% percent) in overlapping geographies other than the two large urban markets.
“We welcome the decision by the Egyptian Competition Authority (ECA) to approve Uber’s pending acquisition of Careem,” Uber’s spokesman noted.
In July 2019, the Competition Amendment Bill was gazetted and looks on course to be adopted by Parliament.
There are several proposed amendments to the current Competition Act although the focus of the Amendments, most notably, relates to the introduction of buyer power provisions which is a self -standing prohibition and does not require a complainant to first establish a dominance on the part of the buyer.
In regard to buyer power, the majority of the substantive provisions in the current “Buyer Power Guidelines” previously published by the Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) have been mirrored in the Act. We summarize below some of the features that the Bill seeks to introduce to the Act in regard to buyer power include:
Introduction of a ‘buyer power code of practice’, developed by the CAK in consultation with stakeholders, relevant government agencies and the Attorney General;
The CAK will have power to impose reporting measures on sectors that experience or are likely to experience abuse of buyer power reporting and prudential requirements, in addition to this, these sectors may be required to develop their own binding code of practice;
The Bill proposes minimum requirements for an agreement between a buyer undertaking and a supplier undertaking. The amendment also provides that this agreement does not have to be in writing;
A new section 29A (which is controversial as it appears to be aimed at the advocates remuneration order) is introduced that targets Professional Associations whose rules offend the provisions of the Competition Act and provides for the persons who will be held responsible for any guidelines that are issued by the association.
It is notable that there are no monetary administrative sanctions introduced by these provisions rather non-compliance attracts criminal sanctions.
The Bill, if passed into law, will positively impact the enforcement of buyer power provisions as the gap on the substantive provisions on the enforcement of buyer power provisions will be filled.
Michael-JamesCurrie, a pan-Africa competition law practitioner notes that that the Buyer Power principles are similar to those typically found in consumer protection legislation and there are no clear benchmarks (such as a substantial lessening of competition) against which to measure or assess the alleged buyer power. The criteria for determining whether buyer power amounts to an contravention is guided by principles of fairness and reasonableness rather than any economic benchmark. This makes compliance as well as objective decision making all the more difficult. JohnOxenham, director at Primerio echoes these sentiments and states that from a traditional competition law perspective, buyer power generally only raises concerns in the event that the buyer concerned is able to exercise a substantial degree of market power.
Currie suggests that absent a clear threshold as to what would trigger an offence in terms of the new buyer power provisions, coupled with the criminal liability (which includes a maximum prison sentence of five years), is particularly onerous on firms seeking to comply with the competition legislation. Currie suggests that it would be preferable to change the liability to an administrative penalty as opposed to a criminal offence so as not to hamper or overly prejudice firms operating in the market.