A gantry at an e-toll station in Gauteng. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
A gantry at an e-toll station in Gauteng. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

The Competition Tribunal has dismissed a case of alleged e-toll levy price fixing against several furniture removal companies, it said on Thursday.

The Tribunal said the case stems from a 2017 Competition Commission investigation into allegations of price fixing in relation to the e-toll levy imposed on customers transporting goods on Gauteng highways.

At the time, the Commission had alleged that 11 furniture removal companies met in 2014 under the auspices of the Northern Province Professional Movers Association, during which time they had agreed to impose a R350 levy on each quote when transporting furniture along Gauteng e-toll roads. The commission claimed that the purpose of the agreement, since January 2014, was to pass e-toll costs on to customers.

The businesses accused of price fixing include Stuttaford Van Lines Gauteng hub, Pickfords Removals SA, A&B Movers, Brytons Removals, Amazing Transport, Key Moves, Bayley Worldwide Removals, Selection Cartage, Elliott Mobility, Crown Relocations, Magna-Thomson, and the Northern Province Professional Movers Association.

Of interest in the case were two matters: Did the discussion that took place (and is not denied) amount to a contravention of the Competition Act? If it did, since it took place three years before the case was initiated, had the alleged price fixed stopped by then? 

The tribunal concluded that the companies did enter into an unlawful agreement to pass on e-toll costs as alleged by the commission but the deciding factor for the case was the time elapsed. 

Time seems to have been on the side of the accused companies as the tribunal said in its order that although the furniture companies may well have concluded an agreement with regard to the charging of e-tolls at the meeting, they cannot be held liable because the agreement was concluded more than three years prior to the initiation of the complaint.

The law states that “a complaint in respect of a prohibited practice may not be initiated more than three years after the practice has ceased”.

gavazam@businesslive.co.za