COMPETITION ACT CHARGES
Deals above board, Corobrik protests
Corobrik has hit back hard over charges by the Competition Commission that it has engaged in price fixing and division of markets with five other brick makers — Era Bricks, De Hoop Brickfields, Kopano Brickworks, Clay Industry and Eston Brick and Tile.
The commission referred the six companies to the Competition Tribunal following an investigation launched in April 2017.
It accuses them of contravening the Competition Act, saying that agreements between the five companies and Corobrik resulted in price fixing and the division of markets in the manufacturing and supply of bricks, pavers and blocks of clay and concrete.
"We regard the allegations in the commission’s referral very seriously. I was most surprised to learn that the commission believes the agreements generate competition law concerns," said Corobrik MD Dirk Meyer. "Corobrik is of the view that its agreements with the above-mentioned firms are both legitimate and defensible in terms of the Competition Act and that the commission’s concerns are attributable to a misunderstanding of the commercial arrangements in question and the market generally," he said.
The referral did not constitute a finding against Corobrik, he said, but was a reflection of the commission’s views based on its understanding of the agreements. "The question of whether or not the conduct actually amounts to a contravention of the Competition Act remains to be adjudicated by the tribunal."
Sipho Ngwema, head of communications at the Competition Commission, said on Thursday the companies would first have to file their replies within 20 days from the day the commission served them. "The tribunal will then set an appropriate date for a hearing once the technical legal processes have been exhausted. We have all the evidence we need for the case — we didn’t have to raid them."