Akzo rejects CCC notification request, claims no ‘failure-to-file’ in paint deal

Paint giant goes on offensive against COMESA request for retroactive merger filing

By AAT Editors

As AAT first reported here on Sept. 26, the COMESA Competition Commission has launched its first failure-to-file investigation into an M&A transaction (here, likely, a licensing deal), specifically involving Dutch commercial paint giant AkzoNobel and paint brand “Sadolin“.

Today’s news, reported in local Ugandan media, is that AkzoNobel’s Director for Decorative Paints in Sub-Saharan Africa, Johann Smidt, made strong comments at the “relaunch” of Sadolin Uganda, claiming that Akzo’s reassignment of the Sadolin brand name & distribution network to Crown Paints East Africa falls outside the CCC’s purview.”  This sentiment was echoed by Crown’s CEO, Rakesh Rao, saying that “[w]e do not have a merger going on; we are a fully independent plant, so COMESA does not come into the picture at all.

Competition lawyers caution that, on occasion, a business person’s notion of what constitutes a “notifiable transaction” can be at odds with the legal definition thereof, says Andreas Stargard,  an antitrust attorney with Primerio Ltd.

“Whilst they may not be a classic ‘merger’ or ‘acquisition’ in the eyes of the business people, certain types of exclusive licensing agreements or even patent or other IP [intellectual property] assignments may very well fall within the purview of competition regulators, including the COMESA Comp Com.,” said Stargard.

The facts surrounding the transaction itself are by all accounts, fairly confounding.  As best as one can interpret the media reports, the former AkzoNobel license agreement was one with an entity called “Sadolin East Africa” (SEA).  However, upon the purchase of SEA by Japanese company Kansai Plascon (AKA “Plascon Uganda” in the region), Akzo cancelled the agreement and has now entered into a new replacement license with Crown Paints (AKA Regal Paints).  It is the cancellation and reassignment that, according to two letters sent by the CCC on September 19th and 25th, requesting that the companies make retroactive merger-notification filings to bring them into belated compliance with the COMESA merger regime.

For now, we know that Akzo remains defiant (presumably basing its critical position on advice of legal counsel), with its local director stating that “whatever we have done to date has been within the laws of this country and this region”.

While some of Akzo’s statements were presumably vetted by antitrust counsel, others are at odds with a “good” antitrust story and appear to be less-carefully made proclamations: Akzo has said that “we believe that we are going to improve competition because we have a new player who is introducing a new product and an existing player, who is Sadolin and we will continue to be here,” yet its director also noted “that the war of words between Sadolin and Plascon had eaten into their market share and that this had influenced their quick agreement with Crown paints”.

As attorney Stargard observes, “it is usually not considered to be an effective antitrust defence to claim that a competitor has ‘eaten into your market share’, and that your actions that are now under investigation were motivated by said competition…”

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EAC poised to pressure remaining members into antitrust enforcement

By AAT staff

On the heels of the COMESA Competition Commission launching its first-ever “failure-to-file” merger investigation, the East African Community (EAC) Competition Authority is poised to dip its toes into the waters of being operational — but it will require its member states to active enforcement programmes of their own, says the agency head.

There are hurdles to the regional body of the African Great Lakes, as our sources point out: only two out of the EAC’s six members states — namely Kenya and Tanzania — have working antitrust enforcement authorities at the moment.  Having only one-third of a supra-national organisation’s members being versed in competition enforcement is a hindrance to the EAC Authority’s competence and pragmatic effectiveness, said chairman of the Board of Commissioners, Sam Watasa at the agency’s 2nd meeting at the organisation’s Arusha headquarters.  He is quoted as saying:

“Kenya and Tanzania have operational National Competition Agencies, Rwanda and Burundi had enacted laws but are yet to be operationalised. In Uganda there was a draft Competition Bill.”

M&A news: First publicly reported failure-to-file accusation in COMESA

Commission goes after Dutch paint manufacturer in Uganda in supra-national enforcement action threat

By AAT staff

The African expansion saga of Japanese paint manufacturer Kansai continues, albeit not in Southern Africa (after having travailed through a hostile takeover of South African paint company Freeworld Coatings and obtaining a majority stake in Zimbabwean competitor Astra Industries in 2010 and 2013, respectively): the current Kansai-related antitrust story is a COMESA one, which comes to us from East Africa.

As was reported back in 2013 in industry publication CoatingsWorld, Kansai had set its sights on expanding into Eastern Africa as well, focussing on the Sadolin brand (formerly owned by AkzoNobel and since its private equity buy-out produced under a continuing AkzoNobel licence and under the parent label Crown Paints).

This has now changed, says competition attorney Andreas Stargard with Primerio Ltd.: “Recently, the COMESA Competition Commission had become aware of press reports that AkzoNobel had withdrawn its Kansai/Sadolin licence in Uganda (a COMESA member state) and effectively entered into — or planned to enter into — a new agreement with an unnamed ‘local producer’.”

Mr. Stargard, who practices competition law with a focus on African companies and jurisdictions, points out that the COMESA merger-notification regime requires a mandatory filing under certain conditions, such as those affecting 2 or more member states and involving businesses with at least $10m in combined regional revenues.

“Whilst the COMESA review is non-suspensory (meaning the parties must notify, but can go ahead and implement the transaction prior to the termination of the CCC’s antitrust review), the notification itself is mandatory.  A failure-to-file can result in significant fines of up to 10% of combined turnover, as well as the regional annulment of the merger within the COMESA countries.

This is what has now happened with Mr. Lipimile’s Sept. 19th letter to AkzoNobel: the CCC chief warned the company that it would risk voiding any contracts if it failed to make a ‘curative’ retroactive filing by yesterday, Monday, 25 September 2017.”

The CCC’s letter to the Dutch paint giant reads in relevant part: “Kindly be informed that the COMESA competition commission has become aware through the media that Akzo Nobel Powder Coatings has entered into sales, manufacturing and distribution agreements with a local paint manufacturer in Uganda.  I wish to inform you that, mergers and any other forms of agreements between competitors are required to be notified to the Commission….without such notification, and subsequent approval by the Commission, such transactions are null and void ab initio and no rights or obligations imposed on the participating parties shall be legally enforceable in the Common Market.”

As to the likelihood of any notification having been made — or at least made satisfactorily and completely —  Andreas Stargard observes that:

“By any antitrust lawyer’s standards, scrambling to make a filing within less than a week, as seems to be required by George’s letter here, is a tall order — merger notifications usually require significant preparatory work, including data analysis, document collection, and interviews with the business people to advance to a final ‘filing’ stage.  To do so in 6 calendar days is extremely difficult.”

He concludes that, “as COMESA is still a relatively young regime in terms of merger filings — with few resources at hand to manage notifications in and of themselves, much less enforcement actions — we expect that the CCC and the parties will somehow arrive at an amicable settlement in this matter.”

The African WRAP – SEPTEMBER 2017 Edition

Since our June 2017 Edition of the African WRAP, we highlight below the key competition law related topics, cases, regulatory developments and political sentiment across the continent which has taken place across the continent in the past three months. Developments in the following jurisdictions are particularly noteworthy: Botswana, Kenya, Mauritius, Namibia, Tanzania and South Africa.

[AAT is indebted to the continuous support of its regular contributors and the assistance of Primerio’s directors in sharing their insights and expertise on various African antitrust matters. To contact a Primerio representative, please visit Primerio’s website]


Botswana: Proposed Legislative Amendments

Introduction of Criminal Liability

The amendments to the Competition Act will also introduce criminal liability for officers or directors of a company who causes the firm to engage in cartel conduct. The maximum sanctions include a fine capped at P100 000 (approx. US$10 000) and/or a maximum five year prison sentence.

Fines for Prior Implementation

Once finalised, the legislative amendments will also introduce a maximum administrative penalty of up to 10% of the merging parties’ turnover for implementing a merger in contravention of the Act. This would include ‘gun-jumping’ or non-compliance with any conditions imposed on the merger approval.

Restructuring of the Authorities

Proposed legislative amendments to the Botswana Competition Act will likely result in the Competition Commission’s responsibilities being broadened to include the enforcement of consumer protection laws in addition to antitrust conduct.

Furthermore, there is a significant restructuring of the competition agencies on the cards in an effort to ensure that the Competition Authority – which will become the Competition and Consumer Authority (CCA) – is independently governed from the Competition Commission. Currently, the Competition Commission governs the CA but the CA is also the adjudicative body in cases referred to the Commission by the CA.

The proposed amendments, therefore, seek to introduce a Consumer and Competition Tribunal to fulfil the adjudicative functions while an independent Consumer and Competition Board will take over the governance responsibilities of the ‘to be formed’ CCA.

South Africa

Information Exchange Guidelines           

The Competition Commission has published draft Guidelines on Information Exchanges (Guidelines). The Guidelines provide some indication as to the nature, scope and frequency of information exchanges which the Commission generally views as problematic. The principles set out in the Guidelines are largely based, however, on case precedent and international best practice.

The fact that the Commission has sought to publish formal guidelines for information exchanges affirms the importance of ensuring that competitors who attend industry association meetings or similar forums must be acutely aware of the limitations to information exchanges to ensure that they do not fall foul of the per se cartel conduct prohibitions of the Competition Act.

Market Inquiry into Data Costs

The Competition Commission has formally initiated a market inquiry into the data services sector. This inquiry will run parallel with the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa’s market inquiry into the telecommunications sector more broadly.

Although the terms of reference are relatively broad, the Competition Commission’s inquiry will cover all parties in the value chain in respect of any form of data services (both fixed line and mobile). In particular, the objectives of the inquiry include, inter alia, an assessment of the competition at each of the supply chain levels, with respect to:

  • The strategic behaviour of by large fixed and mobile incumbents;
  • Current arrangements for sharing of network infrastructure; and
  • Access to infrastructure.

There are also a number of additional objectives such as benchmarking the standard and pricing of data services in South Africa against other countries and assessing the adequacy of the regulatory environment in South Africa.

Mauritius

Amnesty re Resale Price Maintenance

The Competition Commission of Mauritius (CCM) has, for a limited period of four months only, granted amnesty to firms who have engaged in Resale Price Maintenance. The amnesty expires on 7 October 2017. Parties who take advantage of the amnesty will receive immunity from the imposition of a 10% administrative penalty for engaging in RPM in contravention of the Mauritius Competition Act.

The amnesty policy followed shortly after the CCM concluded its first successful prosecution in relation to Resale Price Maintenance (RPM), which is precluded in terms of Section 43 of the Mauritius Competition Act 25 of 2007 (Competition Act).

The CCM held that Panagora Marketing Company Ltd (Panagora) engaged in prohibited vertical practices by imposing a minimum resale price on its downstream dealers and consequently fined Panagora Rs 29 932 132.00 (US$ 849,138.51) on a ‘per contravention’ basis. In this regard, the CMM held that Panagora had engaged in three separate instances of RPM and accordingly the total penalty paid by Pangora was Rs 3 656 473.00, Rs 22 198 549.00 and 4 007 110.00 respectively for each contravention.

Please see AAT’s featured article here for further information on Resale Price Maintenance under Mauritian law

Tanzania

Merger and Acquisition Threshold Notification

The Fair Competition Commission has published revised merger thresholds for the determination of mandatorily notifiable thresholds. The amendments, which were brought into effect by the Fair Competition (Threshold for notification of Merger) (Amendment) Order published on 2 June 2017, increases the threshold for notification of a merger in Tanzania from TZS 800 000 000 (approx.. US$ 355 000) to TZS 3 500 000 000 (approx.. US$ 1 560 000) calculated on the combined ‘world-wide’ turnover or asset value of the merging parties.

Kenya

            Concurrent Jurisdiction in the Telecommunications Sector

In June 2017, Kenya’s High Court struck down legislative amendments which regulated the concurrent jurisdiction between the Kenya Communications Authority and the Competition Authority Kenya in respect of anti-competitive conduct in the telecommunications sector.

In terms of the Miscellaneous Amendments Act 2015, the Communications Authority was obliged to consult with the Competition Authority and the relevant government Minister in relation to any alleged anti-competitive conduct within the telecommunications sector, prior to imposing a sanction on a market player for engaging in such anti-competitive conduct.

The High Court, however, ruled that the Communications Authority is independent and that in terms of the powers bestowed on the Communications Authority by way of the Kenya Communications Act, the Communications Authority may independently make determinations against market participants regarding antic-competitive conduct, particularly in relation to complex matters such as alleged abuse of dominance cases.

Establishment of a Competition Tribunal

The Kenyan Competition Tribunal has now been established and the chairperson and three members were sworn in early June. The Tribunal will become the adjudicative body in relation to decisions and/or taken by the Competition Authority of Kenya.

The Operational Rules of the Tribunal have not yet been published but are expected to be gazetted soon.

Introduction of a Corporate Leniency Policy

The Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) has finalised its Leniency Policy Guidelines, which provide immunity to whistle-blowers from both criminal and administrative liability. The Guidelines specifically extend leniency to the firm’s directors and employees as well as the firm itself.

Only the “first through the door” may qualify for immunity in respect of criminal liability, but second or third responds would be eligible for a 50% and 30% reduction of the administrative penalty respectively, provided that provide the CAK with new material evidence.

It should be noted, however, that receiving immunity from criminal prosecution is subject to obtaining consent from the Director of Public Prosecution as well. As per the procedure set out in the Policy Guidelines, the Director pf Public Prosecutions will only be consulted once a leniency applicant has already disclosed its involvement in the cartel and provided the CAK with sufficient evidence to prosecute the other respondents.

It is not clear what powers the Director of Public Prosecutions would have, particular in relation to the evidence which has been provided by the leniency applicant, should either the CAK or the Director refuse to grant immunity from criminal prosecution.

Namibia

Medical aid schemes

In a landmark judgment, the Namibian Supreme Court overturned the High Court’s decision in favour of the Namibian Association of Medical Aid Funds (NAMAF) and Medical Aid Funds (the respondents) finding that the respondents did not fall within the definition of an “undertaking” for the purpose of the Namibian Competition.

Despite the substantial similarities between the Namibian and the South African Competition Act, Namibia’s highest court took a very different interpretative stance to its South African counter-part and held that because the respondents did not “operate for gain or reward” they could not be prosecuted for allegedly having  engaged in collusive behaviour in relation to their ‘tariff setting’ activities in terms of which the respondents collectively  determined and published recommended bench-marking tariffs for reimbursement to patients in respect of their medical costs.

 

 

Don’t wait for leniency… Lipimile signals delays

COMESA Chief Warns of Delayed Implementation of Leniency Policy

George Lipimile, CEO, COMESA Competition Commission

George Lipimile, Director, COMESA Competition Commission

In an interview with Concurrences, CCC Director George Lipimile stated cautiously that, while the agency had engaged a consultant to help it craft a regional leniency programme, it still had to “be discussed in detail with Member States. Given the different legal systems and the feedback coming from the consultations with Member States so far, this may take some time.”

Thus, “while there is no amnesty programme visible on the near-term horizon, the CCC’s novel cartel enforcement push poses particular concerns for undertakings operating in the COMESA region,” says Andreas Stargard, attorney with Africa advisory firm Pr1merio.  “Director Lipimile has expressed his agency’s plan — jointly with the World Bank organisation — to launch a project designed to combat cartel activity.  They propose to do so first, it seems, by piggy-backing off of other enforcers’ previous investigations, such as the South African Competition Commission’s cartel cases, and analysing whether those instances of foreign collusion could have harmful effects on the COMESA economies.”

Kipiani and Tchapga: advancing competition law & economics in Cameroon

Competition Law conference provides most in-depth look at the state of Cameroonian antitrust law

Event organised by Dr. Patricia Kipiani and Prof. Tchapga of Primerio & CEMAC, the Cameroon school of business and its competition law section

What follows is an article that appeared in French in the Le Droit journal, written by Stéphane Ngoh, reprinted here with permission.  An English translation is below.  An interview with Dr. Kipiani related to the conference can be found here.  In it, she discusses the planned creation of a “Competition Observatory” for the country.

Le cabinet Primerio International a organisé un séminaire de sensibilisation aux enjeux du droit et de la politique de la concurrence au Cameroun et dans l’espace de la CEMAC. L’évènement lancé par le ministre du Commerce, M. Luc Magloire Mbarga Atangana s’est déroulé le 7 juillet 2016 au siège du GICAM à Douala.

Présenter la concurrence comme « un bien commun » à la collectivité et « renforcer la pédagogie de la concurrence dans ses dimensions juridiques et politiques» tels peuvent être les maitres mots du premier « rendez-vous de la concurrence» au Cameroun et en CEMAC impulsé par le cabinet d’expertise Primerio International et placé sous le thème «Du droit et de la politique de la concurrence au Cameroun et dans l’espace CEMAC ».  Comme pour en souligner toute l’importance, le ministre du Commerce du Cameroun, Luc Magloire Mbarga Atangana, a fait le déplacement de la capitale économique dans l’optique d’en présider le lancement officiel. Le Docteur en droit et avocate au barreau de Bruxelles, Mme Patricia Kipiani, qui représentait le cabinet Primerio International pour l’occasion a expliqué combien cette première édition des « rendez-vous de la concurrence », se voulait sérieuse. Toute chose ayant justifié l’association aussi bien des universitaires de tous bords, du groupement inter-patronal du Cameroun (Gicam) que des autorités publiques camerounaises. Les Chercheurs de l’Université de Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne en France et les spécialistes du droit de la concurrence, le Professeur des universités Martine Behar-Touchais et l’enseignant-chercheur Laurent Vidal ont fait le déplacement du Gicam.

1425573796Le ministre du Commerce, qui intervient comme l’autorité publique de tutelle du secteur de la concurrence, a tenu à préciser que les rendez-vous de la concurrence ne pouvaient mieux tomber dans un contexte communautaire et camerounais situé à « la veille de l’entrée en vigueur des Accords de partenariat économique « APE », entre les pays ACP et l’UE dont le Cameroun est partie », ces accords qui impliquent une ouverture de l’économie imposent donc qu’un certain accent soit mis sur le droit et la politique de la concurrence. Au demeurant, le représentant de l’Etat du Cameroun à ce rendez-vous a tenu à réaffirmer la place reservée jusqu’ici à la concurrence, « notre conviction, a –t-il expliqué, est que le commerce a besoin d’un environnement sain et c’est la raison pour laquelle un arsenal des textes législatives ou règlementaires existe au Cameroun et cela témoigne de la volonté de l’état de réguler le secteur ». A l’appui de son affirmation, M. Luc Magloire Mbarga Atangana a soutenu que la volonté et la détermination du Cameroun à faire du droit de la concurrence un enjeu de poids, se traduit depuis des années. Pour s’en féliciter, il souligne que les premières velléités d’encadrement de la concurrence remontent aux années1990 et qu’autant les lois ont créé la Commission nationale de la concurrence (Cnc) autant des décrets  en ont fixés les contours organisationnels et structurels. Le président de ladite Commission Léopold Boumsong, qui était dans la suite du Mincommerce, a été appelé à présenter les aspects nationaux de la concurrence et précisément le rôle de la Commission nationale de la concurrence. Ce rôle, comme l’a martelé le ministre, doit s’attacher à « poursuivre et sanctionner les pratiques anticoncurrentielles, en s’appuyant sur des textes datant et nouveau à l’instar de la loi cadre protection sur la consommation, de la nouvelle loi portant organisation des activités commerciales ainsi que la loi sur commerce extérieur ».

TROIS GRANDES PRATIQUES ANTICONCURRENTIELLES

cameroonLe président de la Cnc a précisé à l’égard des chefs d’entreprises qui emplissaient la salle du Gicam qu’il existe sommairement 3 types de pratiques qui ont « pour effet d’empêcher, de fausser ou de restreindre de manière sensible, l’exercice de la concurrence au niveau du marché intérieur » au sens de la loi n°98/013 du 14 juillet 1998 relative à la concurrence. Il s’agit des abus d’une entreprise ou d’un groupe d’entreprises en position dominante sur le marché, des fusions et acquisitions d’entreprises et aussi des accords anticoncurrentiels. L’un dans l’autre, il est apparu que les pratiques anticoncurrentielles au Cameroun sont constatées par procès-verbal dressé par les membres de la Commission suite aux enquêtes consécutives à une plainte d’une personne physique ou morale ou à celles initiées par eux-mêmes.

Par la suite, les aspects multilatéraux de la concurrence ont été évoqués au travers de la présentation du rôle de la Conférence des Nations Unies sur le Commerce et le Développement (CNUCED) en matière l’accompagnement des politiques de concurrence. L’économiste de la CNUCED, Yves Kenfack a découvert le code CNUCED de la concurrence dont il a salué la pertinence tout en regrettant que celui-ci ne soit pas contraignant pour les Etats signataires.

Un autre moment des échanges a porté sur les aspects croisés entre le point de vue de l’économiste et celui du juriste quant à la concurrence. C’est M. Flavien Tchapga, économiste, consultant lui aussi à Primerio International et professeur associé à l’Université Senghor d’Alexandrie, qui s’y est attelé face à l’auditoire de la salle des conférences du Gicam. L’intervention de ce dernier peut se ramener à une suggestion forte faisant suite à l’interrogation suivante : « peut-on réussir la sensibilisation sur la concurrence si l’on ne tient pas compte des spécificités de l’environnement local ? ». Réponse, en effet, dans un contexte où 9 entreprises sur 10 sont individuelles, il faut se méfier des formules des juristes qui sont souvent larges et complexifiées pour les économistes plus proches du terrain.

Au cours du rendez-vous de la concurrence, une table-ronde a été ouverte pour asseoir la dimension didactique de la rencontre. Les débats et les questions étaient placés sous la houlette de M. Martin Abega, administrateur de sociétés, ancien membre de la Commission nationale de la concurrence et Consul honoraire du Royaume des Pays-Bas au Cameroun.

En dernière analyse, les expériences pratiques de règlementations et de politiques de la concurrence en Europe et au Cameroun ont clairement été croisées par le biais de Martine Behar-Touchais et Laurent Vidal d’une part et de Me Abdoul Bagui d’autre part. Etant entendu qu’au Cameroun, la régulation est émiettée par secteur d’activités.

Ce sont concrètement toutes les difficultés liées au libre exercice de la concurrence qui ont été passées au crible. La contrebande, la persistance des monopoles dans certains domaines ou encore la contrefaçon relèvent de ces écueils épluchés par les soins des experts internationaux et locaux à l’instar des représentants du CNUCED, de CEMAC, de l’OHADA et surtout des entreprises camerounaises. Le Dr. Patricia Kipiani a expliqué qu’il était important que « les réflexions et les échanges reviennent sur les difficultés auxquelles se heurtent les entreprises, sur les difficultés liées à la concurrence déloyale, à leur impact sur le secteur informel et autres activités informelles des entreprises formelles. Et aussi qu’ un accent soit mis sur la réglementation et sur les politiques économiques susceptibles de promouvoir notre espace économique ».

Stéphane Ngoh


For our English readers, below is a Google Translate version in English of the article:

The international  firm Primerio organized an awareness seminar on issues of law and competition policy in Cameroon and in the CEMAC zone. The event launched by the Minister of Trade, Luc Magloire Mbarga Atangana Mr. took place July 7, 2016 at the headquarters of GICAM in Douala.

Introduce competition as a “common good” to the community and “strengthen the teaching of competition in its legal and political dimensions” — such are the watchwords of the first “meeting competition” in Cameroon and driven CEMAC by the consultancy firm Primerio International and under the theme “from the law and competition policy in Cameroon and in the CEMAC.” As if to emphasize the importance, the trade minister of Cameroon, Luc Magloire Atangana Mbarga, made the trip from the economic capital with a view to chair the official launch. The Doctor of Law and lawyer at the Brussels Bar, Patricia Kipiani, who represented the firm Primerio International for the occasion explained how this first edition of “appointments of competition”, was meant seriously. Anything that justified the association both academics of all stripes, the inter-group employers of Cameroon (Gicam) that the Cameroonian public authorities. The researchers from the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne in France and specialists from the competition law, the University Professor Martine Behar-Touchais and Laurent Vidal teacher-researcher made the trip from Gicam.

Minister of Commerce, which acts as a public authority supervising the sector to competition, has insisted that the appointment of the competition could not get better in a community and Cameroonian context located “on the eve of the entry into force of the economic partnership agreements ‘EPAs’, between the ACP countries and the EU which Cameroon is a party “, these agreements which involve opening up the economy therefore require that a certain emphasis on law and the competition policy. Moreover, the representative of the State of Cameroon to this appointment held to reaffirm the place reserved far in the competition, “our conviction has -t he explained, is that the trade needs a healthy environment and that is why an arsenal of legislative and regulatory texts exist in Cameroon and it demonstrates the willingness of the state to regulate the sector. “ In support of its contention, Luc Magloire Atangana Mbarga argued that the will and determination of Cameroon to the competition law of a weight issue, resulting in years. To be welcomed, he stressed that the first framework for competition ambitions date back to the 1990’s and that so many laws created the National Competition Commission (CNC) as decrees have laid the organizational and structural contours. The president said Leopold Commission Boumsong, who was later in the MINCOMMERCE, was called to present the national aspects of competition and specifically the role of the National Competition Commission. This role, as insisted the minister, must strive to “prosecute and punish anti-competitive practices, based on texts dating and new like the law under protection on consumption, the new law on the organization of business and the foreign trade Act. “

THREE MAJOR ANTI-COMPETITIVE PRACTICES

The president of the CNC said against business leaders who filled the room Gicam there summarily 3 types of practices which have “the effect of preventing, distorting or restricting significantly, the year of competition in the internal market “under law No. 98/013 of 14 July 1998 on competition. This is abuse of a company or group of companies in a dominant market position, mergers and acquisitions as well as anti-competitive agreements. One the other, it appeared that anti-competitive practices in Cameroon are recorded in minutes drawn up by the Commission of the members following the investigations following a complaint from a natural or legal person or those initiated by them -Same.

Thereafter, the multilateral aspects of competition were discussed through the presentation of the role of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in support for competition policy. The economist of UNCTAD, Yves Kenfack discovered the UNCTAD code of competition which he praised the relevance while regretting that it was not binding on the signatory states.

Another moment of trade covered the Crusaders aspects between the views of the economist and that of the lawyer about the competition. It was Mr. Flavien Tchapga, economist, consultant also to Primerio International and associate professor at the Senghor University of Alexandria, which it is harnessed facing the audience of the Gicam conference room. The intervention of the latter can be reduced to a strong suggestion in response to the following question: “can we succeed awareness on competition if it does not take into account the specificities of the local environment? “. Response, in fact, in a context where 9 out of 10 companies are individual, beware formulas lawyers who are often larger and more complex to the nearest economists ground.

During the appointment of the competition, a panel discussion was opened to establish the educational dimension of the encounter. The debates and issues were under the leadership of Mr. Martin Abega, corporate director, former member of the National Competition Commission and Honorary Consul of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Cameroon.

Ultimately, the practical experiences of regulations and competition policies in Europe and Cameroon have clearly been crossed through Martine Behar-Touchais and Laurent Vidal one hand and Mr. Abdul Bagui other. It being understood that in Cameroon, regulation is broken by sector.

These are all practical difficulties related to the free exercise of competition that were screened. Smuggling, the persistence of monopolies in certain areas or counterfeiting within these pitfalls peeled for the service of international and local experts like the representatives of UNCTAD, CEMAC, OHADA and especially Cameroonian companies. Dr. Patricia Kipiani said it was important that “the reflections and exchanges back on the difficulties firms face, the difficulties related to unfair competition, their impact on the informal sector and other informal activities formal businesses. And also that an emphasis on regulation and economic policies that promote our economic space. “

CCC Begins Conduct Enforcement & Activates Its Exemption Regime for Potentially Anti-Competitive Agreements

Parties Start Discussing Business Practices with COMESA’s CCC

As AAT reported recently — see “Growing Pains: From One-Trick Pony to Full-Fledged Enforcer?” — the COMESA Competition Commission (CCC) has begun to move from being a pure merger-control administrator to becoming a full-fledged antitrust enforcer.  The CCC issued a Notice calling on firms to notify the CCC of any agreements (both historic and forward-looking) that may be anti-competitive, for the purpose of having such agreements ‘authorised’ or ‘exempted’ under Article 20 of the COMESA Competition Regulations.  (More details on that regime are in our June article, referenced above.)

Eveready products (sample)

Eveready products (sample)

AAT has now learned that several companies have taken the agency up on its Exemption proposal: Andreas Stargard, a competition practitioner with Primerio Ltd. observes that the CCC’s announced “leniency ‘window’ to incentivise firms to come forward and obtain an exemption” has closed at this point in time, although he expressed doubt that the relatively short one-month period was sufficient and will likely be extended.  Says Stargard: “We are seeing several parties, both global & local companies, who are beginning to take the CCC’s non-merger enforcement seriously.  These undertakings are considering to obtain advance clearance of their business practices under the Commission’s Notice procedure.”  One such example, he adds, is Kenya’s financially embattled Eveready East Africa: it has reportedly sought CCC approval of its agreements with international manufacturers for the importation and distribution within the COMESA common market of their diverse products, ranging from batteries to fountain pens to CloroCOMESA old flag colorx-brand chemicals.  The Commission has invited “general public and stakeholders” for comments according to its formal statement.

In light of these developments, Stargard advises that:
“multi-national firms operating within COMESA or jointly with a COMESA-based importer or other domestic business partner should consider engaging counsel to evaluate their practices, and if they may fall within Article 16 of the Regulations, consider approaching the CCC for an authorisation letter.”

 

COMESA sees slight uptick in merger notifications

Merger filings still dither, but YTD numbers now tentatively promise to exceed FY2015

Making sense of the COMESA Competition Commission’s merger notification site is no  easy undertaking.  The perplexing nature of its case-numbering system mirrors perhaps only the level of confusion surrounding the CCC’s original merger threshold and notification-fee guidelines (e.g., see here on that topic).

As we pointed out here, the merger statistics (as they had been released as of January 2016) for 2015 were disappointingly low.  In today’s post, please note that we are upgrading those numbers, however, to reflect additional material now made available on the official CCC web resource, reflecting 3 additional filings, bringing the year-end total for FY2015 to 18.  Three of those were “Phase 2” cases.  In addition, according to the CCC, there were 3 supplemental cases in which “Comfort Letters” were issued to the parties.

For year-to-date 2016 statistics, the numbers look analogous, albeit somewhat higher than the 2015 slump — that is to say, still diminished from the 2013-2014 height of COMESA ‘mergermania’, during which (mostly international) counsel took the confusion surrounding the CCC notification thresholds to heart and erred on the side of caution (and more fees), advising clients to notify rather than not to (65 in the 2 years), or to seek Comfort Letters, which also were issued in record numbers (19 total for the 2-year period)…   With that said, the agency is now up to 16 merger cases, with 2 Second-Phase matters on deck.

AAT 2016 September mergermania statistics

Number of merger notifications based on CCC-published notices (using educated inferences where the original CCC case numbers, dates and/or descriptions lack intelligibility; note that 2013-14 statistics only reflect actual filings made available online and not the official statistics issued by the CCC of 21 and 43, respectively)                                                                         (c) AfricanAntitrust.com

Growing Pains: From One-Trick Pony to Full-Fledged Enforcer?

COMESA Competition Commission Expands Enforcement Ambit from Merger Control to Conduct —

CCC Seeks Information on “Potentially” Anti-Competitive Agreements

By AAT Senior Contributor, Michael-James Currie.

Breaking News: The COMESA Competition Commission (CCC) has issued a notice (the “Notice”) calling on firms to notify the CCC of any agreements (both historic and forward looking) that may be anti-competitive, for the purpose of having such agreements ‘authorised’ or ‘exempted’ in terms of Article 20 of the COMESA Competition Regulations (the “Regulations”).

In terms of Article 20 of the Regulations, agreements which are anticompetitive may be exempted by the CCC if such an ‘anticompetitive agreement’ contributes positively to the ‘public interest’ to the extent that the public interest benefit outweighs the anti-competitive effect.

In terms of the CCC’s notice 1/2013, the following agreements may well be considered to be in the public interest when evaluating whether an anti-competitive agreement or concerted practice should be exempted:

  • Joint research and development ventures;
  • Specialisation agreements; and
  • Franchising agreements

As to the agreements or concerted practices which may be anti-competitive, the Notice refers specifically to the restrictive business practices listed in Article 16 of the Regulations which states that:

The following shall be prohibited as incompatible with the Common Market:

all agreements between undertakings, decisions by associations of undertakings and concerted practices which:

(a) may affect trade between Member States; and

(b) have as their object or effect the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition within the Common Market.”

It should be noted that Article 16 is deliberately drafted broadly so as to prohibit conduct which has as its “object” the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition. Certain conduct, such as price fixing, fixing of trading terms or conditions, allocating suppliers or markets or collusive tendering may be considered as having as its ‘object’ the distortion or restriction of competition in the market. Accordingly, firms who have engaged in this type of conduct may be held liable in the absence of any evidence of an anti-competitive effect (whether actual or potential).

Says Andreas Stargard, a competition practitioner with Primerio Ltd., “[t]he CCC’s notice is a clear sign that the agency is gathering momentum in its efforts to detect and prosecute anticompetitive practices within the member states — and is going beyond its ‘one-trick pony’ status as a pure merger-control gatekeeper.  We anticipate a more active role by the CCC in conduct investigations and presumptively also enforcement actions, as opposed to its previous rubber-stamping activity of approving transactions with a COMESA community dimension (and concomitant collection of vast filing fees).”

The CCC has recently signed a number of Memoranda of Understanding and Cooperation Agreements with various member states as well as a tripartite agreement with other broader regional forums such as the Southern African Development Community and the East African Community.

COMESA old flag colorThe web of MoU’s recently concluded, which have as their primary objectives the facilitation of information exchanges and cooperation between competition agencies, is certainly a significant stride made to assist the authorities, including the CCC, in detecting and prosecuting anticompetitive practices which may be taking place across the African continent.

A further indication of the CCC’s growing appetite and confidence to identify anticompetitive practices is that the CCC has announced that it is conducting a market enquiry into the grocery retail sector.  This is the first market inquiry to be conducted by the CCC.

In terms of the CCC’s Notice, firms who have not yet notified the CCC of agreements which may be anticompetitive, have approximately one month to do so. In other words, the CC has offered a leniency ‘window’ to incentivise firms to come forward and obtain an exemption in respect of agreements already implemented which may be in contravention of Article 16 of the Regulations.

 

More Criminal Anti-Cartel Enforcement in Africa? Some Thoughts on Nigeria

By AAT guest author, Osayomwanbor Bob Enofe, Sutherland School of Law Doctoral Scholar, UCD.

We recently wrote about the landmark enactment of the new South African competition legislation that makes hard-core price-fixing a criminal offence, subjecting cartelists to up to 10 years imprisonment.  Nigeria is usually not on the radar of antitrust practitioners, however, and certainly not in the criminal sense, either.  As regular readers of AAT know, the Republic of Nigeria has featured occasionally in our posts despite not having a functioning antitrust regime, yet.  As editor and Pr1merio director Andreas Stargard wrote in an article entitled “Nigerian antitrust?“, scholars and political activists alike have promoted the idea of establishing an antitrust regime in West Africa’s dominant economy: ‘Today, AfricanAntitrust adds its voice to the steady, though infrequent, discussion surrounding the possibility of a Nigerian competition-law regime.  In our opinion, it is not a question of “if” but “when”, and perhaps more importantly, “how“?’

Today, contributing author Bob Enofe adds his voice to the mix, and we are publishing one of his articles that originally appeared on Robert Connolly’s cartel capers blog.

Criminal Antitrust in Nigeria?

nigeriaThe Federal Republic of Nigeria is currently in the process of enacting a competition law, including to criminalise cartel activity amongst competitors. While such is in line with moves made by various other jurisdictions and theories of ‘rational actor’, sanction and deterrence, on ground realities suggest that criminalisation where transplanted might be seriously flawed.

From the late 1990s, and particularly in the year 2000, the Federal Government of Nigeria commenced moves to enact a Competition Law. Under such law, business cartel activity defined as agreements between competitors, aimed at distorting the process of competition and generating monopolistic rents, would be criminalised. The ‘Federal Competition Bill, 2002’, an executive bill drafted by the Nigerian Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), was titled: “a Bill for an Act to provide necessary conditions for market competition and to stimulate creative business activities, protect consumers, and promote the balanced development of the natural economy, by prohibiting restrictive contracts and business practices that substantially lessened competition”. It was also to be a Bill to regulate “possible abuses of dominant positions by businesses, and anti-competitive combines, and to establish the Federal Competition Commission, for effective implementation and enforcement of all the provisions of the bill”.  According to relevant sections of the bill, cartel agreements amongst competitors, including price fixing, bid rigging and market division, were also to be expressly criminalised. Clearly a robust and comprehensive bill, 16 years after introduction to the Nigerian National Assembly, the bill remains to be passed into law. Several amendments have since been presented, together with other bills presented by lawmakers. In every case, such bills have either stalled at first reading stage, or in certain cases disappeared from the legislative process. In one of such instances, an amendment of the above bill (The Federal Trade and Competition Commission Bill, 2006) was “vehemently” objected to by distinguished Senators, prompting governmental withdrawal. Amongst reasons advanced for the reception accorded the bill included that there was no need for a distinct ‘competition commission’, in the face of an already existent consumer protection council in Nigeria; other legislators simply complained about a proliferation of “too many commissions” in the country. Commentators have alluded to overt ignorance and lack of particular inclination for the subject, on the part of Nigerian Senators, as in reality underlining the reception accorded the bill.

In a paper recently presented at the #SLSA2016, ‘Developing Countries, Nigeria, and Cartel Criminalisation: of Transplantation and Desirability’ I had outlined how Nigeria’s attempt to introduce a competition law, and in particular criminalise cartel activity, reveals a (marked) lack of societal inclination towards competition law and prior poor advocacy on the part of government. Social norms are crucial to the effectiveness of law reform. Desirable social norms ensures amongst other things that prohibited conduct will be reported and discovered, even without direct enforcement or investigativeBob Enofe intervention, thereby complementing stretched law enforcement efforts.[1] Such also imply that prosecutors will be willing to enforce and vigorously police provisions of the law where passed, and in the case of the judiciary, stringent sentences will also be applied—or at least not deliberately avoided—so as to facilitate the deterrence potential of the applicable law. Perhaps most crucially for Nigeria, existence of such norms also mean that law makers are incentivised to support reform efforts, while the chances of ‘hijack’ by private interests will be slim. Absent such norms the chances of Nigeria’s competition and cartel criminalisation law, even when passed, could be (remarkably) marginal.

Heightened advocacy, together with a careful selection of test cases once the law is enacted is advanced as capable of remedying the above situation. In the face of sub-par institutions characteristic of the Nigerian context however (including severe limitations in the operation of the rule of law), abilities to so ‘guide’ social norms will be in reality seriously limited. An online petition regarding corruption amongst Nigerian senators, for example, reflect in part difficulties that could frustrate transplantation of cartel criminalisation, absent independent, effective, anti-corruption reforms in the country.

Neoliberal theories of rational actors, sanction and deterrence, imply to large extents a similar existence of contexts as have underlined effectiveness in western societies. In many cases, on the ground realities suggest that theories where transplanted, could be seriously flawed.

As I have argued in another paper currently under review (details to be communicated soon, hopefully!), one size cannot fit all- with developing countries and cartel criminalisation, the point gains extra force. To the extent that fines and other administrative means of enforcement are limited in ability to effectively curtail cartel practices, suggests a need for continuation of relevant research. Criminalisation hardly represents the ‘Golden Fleece’.

Footnote:

[1] See Stephan, Andreas, ‘Cartel laws undermined: Corruption, social norms, and collectivist business cultures’ (2010) Journal of Law and Society 345-367, See Maher, Imelda, The Institutional Structure of Competition Law, in Dowdle, Gillespie and Maher (eds) Asian Capitalism and the Regulation of Competition: Towards a Regulatory Geography of Global Competition Law (Cambridge University Press, 2013) 55, See Gal, Michal  ‘The Ecology of Antitrust: Preconditions for Competition Law Enforcement in Developing Countries.’ (2004) Competition, Competitiveness and Development 20-38.