By AAT Senior Contributor Stephany Torres
Print media companies Independent Media and Caxton & CTP Publishers and Printers (“Caxton”) have agreed to pay an administrative penalties as well as an amount to the Economic Development Fund of over R8 million as part of two separate settlement agreements with the Competition Commission (“The Commission”) after admitting to fixing prices and trading conditions in contravention of section 4(1)(b)(i) of the Competition Act no. 89 of 1998 (“The Competition Act”).
Caxton owns local print media, including the Citizen newspaper and magazines Bona, Rooirose and Farmer’s Weekly, among others. Independent owns newspapers The Star, Cape Times, Sunday Independent, among others and magazines GQ and GQ Style.
Attorneys from African competition law firm Primerio Ltd. report that this development follows from a 2011 investigation by the Commission into the matter where they found that, through the facilitating vehicle of the Media Credit CoOrdinators (“MCC”) organization, various media companies agreed to offer similar discounts and payment terms to advertising agencies that place advertisements with MCC members. MCC accredited agencies were offered a 16.5% discount, while non-members were offered 15%. In addition, the Commission found that the implicated companies employed services of an intermediary company called Corex to perform risk assessments on advertising agencies for purposes of imposing a settlement discount structure and terms on advertising agencies. “The Commission found that the practices restricted competition among the competing companies as they did not independently determine an element of a price in the form of discount or trading terms”.
In a media release, the Competition Commission confirmed Caxton will pay a fine of R5 806 890.14, and R2 090 480.45 to the Economic Development Fund over three years. It will also provide 25% bonus advertising space for every rand of advertising space bought by qualifying small agencies for three years, capped at R15 000 000 per annum.
Independent Media will pay an administrative penalty of R2 220 603 and will contribute R799 417 to the Economic Development Fund over a three-year period, and provide 25% bonus advertising space for every rand of advertising space bought by qualifying small agencies, over three years and capped at R5 000 000. Independent has also said it would obtain its own credit insurance so small agencies are not required to commit any securities or guarantees in order to book advertising space.
The Economic Development Fund is designed to develop black-owned small media or advertising agencies, which require assistance with start-up capital and will assist black students with bursaries to study media or advertising.
The agreements were confirmed as orders of the Competition Tribunal.