Picture: REUTERS/TOBY MELVILLE
Picture: REUTERS/TOBY MELVILLE

After receiving a number of complaints the Competition Commission plans to launch an inquiry into public-transport sectors in the next few months.

The inquiry will look into the regulatory regime governing meter and Uber taxis and the government subsidies given to buses and trains.

Commissioner Thembinkosi Bonakele told Parliament’s economic development committee this week that the inquiry would be very big and complex and would take about two years to complete its work. The terms of reference were expected to be finalised by July.

The results of the inquiry would feed into the many transport plans being developed by spheres of government and drive the adoption of efficient public transport systems.

Complaints had also been received from minibus-taxi owners about the state subsidies that were provided to buses, which they said were to their detriment although they carried the bulk of commuters

The commission, he said, had received a number of complaints against Uber by meter-taxi owners, who complained that the playing field was not level. They accused the authorities of favouring Uber in terms of regulation.

Complaints had also been received from minibus-taxi owners about the state subsidies that were provided to buses, which they said were to their detriment although they carried the bulk of commuters.

The subsidies given to rail, including the Gautrain, would also come under the spotlight in the inquiry. Bonakele said there were many disparities in the rail subsidies provided by various spheres of government and the inquiry aimed to establish the effect these had on other public transport operators.

The inquiry into possible anticompetitive behaviour by retailers would be concluded this financial year. The commission would also investigate Transnet’s port charges.

The inquiry into the automobile market continues.

Bonakele highlighted difficulties in implementing the 2016 amendment to the Competition Act, which introduced criminalisation of cartel behaviour.

The wording of the provision was problematic and needed to be clarified as the role of the competition authorities in prosecutions was not clear, the commissioner said.

The law gives the police and the National Prosecuting Authority the power to investigate and prosecute crimes.

"It is not clear how investigations by the competition authorities will feed into the criminal-investigation process."

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