Battery makers in price fixing probe

Executives of the SA Battery Manufacturers Association have been ordered by the Competition,Picture: Getty Images

Executives of the SA Battery Manufacturers Association have been ordered by the Competition Tribunal to produce documents related to a complaint of price fixing.

Chairperson Glenn Llewellyn Geldenhuis and secretary Maria Da Fonseca have been ordered to show the documents to applicants in a complaint of price fixing and agreements to lessen competition in the sale and manufacturing of car batteries. The parties failed to get subpoenas for the production of the documents to be set aside.

The initial complaint was brought by the South African Batteries Importers Association (SABIA) and five other applicants, in which they claimed members of SABMA had directly or indirectly fixed the purchase or selling price and agreements to lessen competition by battery producers. The subpoenas were issued on behalf of SABIA by the tribunal.

Since the subpoenas were issued, two of SABMA’s three members, namely First National Battery and Powertech Industries trading as Willard Batteries, have since settled with SABIA and its members, leaving only Donaventa Holdings Pty Ltd, trading as Dixon Batteries. SABMA applicants Geldenhuis and De Fonseca said the subpoenas requiring them to hand over documents be set aside were “overbroad and unlawful”. T

hey said some of the requested documents go back to 1940. SABIA also brought an application challenging the tribunal’s jurisdiction to set aside a summons or subpoena. In the process of the hearings, the itemised list of documents requested by SABIA was reduced from 27 to just three. SABMA argued that the remaining documents were communications between SABMA and the International Trade Administration Commission of South Africa with regard to the export of scrap batteries from SA and the imposition of increased tariffs in respect of imported batteries and were confidential.

The tribunal said it had a confidentiality regime allowing for the disclosure of documents to the respondents’ legal representatives and expert witnesses. The regulator ordered SABMA and its two applicants to disclose the remaining documents. SABIA and the five respondents are required to pay costs with regard to the jurisdiction application and the cost of the subpoena application as many of the documents they required were abandoned.