Picture: GALLO IMAGES
Picture: GALLO IMAGES

Computicket has been fined R20m, the Competition Tribunal announced on Monday.

The case has been dragging on for about a decade, complicated by the ownership of Computicket switching from Naspers to Shoprite in 2005.

Part of the drawn-out legal battle appears to have revolved around Shoprite's arguing that the businesses practices smaller players had complained about dated back to when Computicket was a Naspers subsidiary.

The tribunal dismissed that argument in Monday's statement. But whereas the Competition Commission's original investigation into Computicket stretched from 1999 to 2012, the tribunal's verdict only covers the period since its acquisition by Shoprite until 2010.

“The company’s exclusivity contracts increased dramatically — in terms of quantity and duration — following its takeover by Shoprite in 2005,” the tribunal said.

It noted a trend that Computicket’s pricing and profits increased steadily since its change of ownership.

The origins of the case date back to February 2008 when Strictly Tickets complained about Computicket dissuading sports and entertainment venues from dealing with smaller ticket sellers. The commission subsequently received similar complaints from Soundalite, KZN Entertainment News and Reviews, L Square Technologies and Ezimidlalo Technologies.

The commission consolidated the complaints and referred the matter to the tribunal for prosecution in April 2010.

“The hearing in this matter started more than seven years later, in October 2017. The long delay is attributed to a lengthy and litigious history between the parties over discovery of documents, followed by an unsuccessful administrative law challenge to the commissioner’s decision to refer the complaint,” the tribunal said.

The tribunal said it found that “there was limited market entry during the period 2005 to 2010, a period which at the beginning and thereafter coincided with the period of the introduction of the longer-term exclusivity contracts and Computicket’s aggressive enforcement of its rights under these contracts.”

laingr@businesslive.co.za