Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

A meeting at a Cape Town restaurant culminated in boat operators inflating their prices for trips to Robben Island. Now they’ve been served with fines for their collusion‚ according to the Competition Tribunal.

The tribunal said in a statement that an investigation by the Competition Commission was instituted after a complaint from the Robben Island Museum. Five companies that allegedly colluded on a tender were identified.

"The commission’s investigation found that around September 22 2015‚ the respondents met and discussed increasing the prices they would charge the museum when responding to a tender it had issued. The tender was for bidders to be listed on the museum’s database as a preferred service provider for a 12-month period.

"Subsequent to the meeting, Thembekile Maritime Services and Nauticat Charters increased their prices to R18‚000 a trip for 140 passengers ... this resulted in all three quoting the same price, [as] Silverbuckle increased its price per trip from R7‚750 to R8‚775 for a 65-passenger vessel."

The commission referred the complaint to the tribunal for adjudication. The three firms‚ as part of their settlement‚ agreed to cease the conduct and to assist the commission with its investigation.

The tribunal confirmed settlement agreements, with Thembekile Maritime Service’s penalty being R350‚000; Silverbuckle Trade 21 CC t/a Yacoob Yatch’s R249‚171; and Nauticat Charters’ being R422,087.

The fines are all less than 10% of the firms’ annual turnover.

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