A cartel is formed when competing firms agree to collude and act together instead of competing, all
there while maintaining the illusion of competition. In South Africa, cartels are regulated by
Competition Act 89 of 1998 (hereinafter the Act). These activities are specifically provided for in
section 4(1)(b) of the Act and are per se prohibited. The section specifically lists the following
activities as cartels practices: price fixing, bid rigging and market allocation. Cartel activities are
formed in secret and this renders these activities more dangerous because it is difficult for
competition authorities to detect and prosecute them. South African competition authorities
consider cartels as the most egregious of all competition law contraventions because of their
harmful impact upon consumers, economic development and the market.
Generally, an investigation process is employed by competition authorities to detect and prosecute
cartel activities. The investigation process is usually preceded by a validly initiated complaint. The
said complaint may be initiated by either, a private person or the Commissioner of the Competition
Commission (hereinafter the Commission) in his or her capacity as the Commissioner acting on
behalf the Commission. This form of investigation is commonly known as the “traditional
investigation process”. The traditional investigative process has been less effective in exposing and
prosecuting cartel activities. South African competition authorities therefore decided to adopt
Corporate Leniency Policy (hereinafter the CLP) to enhance its cartel detection and prosecution
powers. The CLP is not contained in the Act but in a separate policy document. The CLP incentivizes
cartel members to voluntarily disclose their involvement in cartel activity in exchange for immunity
or leniency from prosecution and applicable fines. In terms of the CLP, the first cartel member, to
bring cartel existence to the attention of the authorities is exempt from prosecution and prescribed
sanctions for their involvement to the cartel activity provided they qualify with the prescribed
requirements under the CLP.
Cartel activity trigger financial fines for firms involved in such an activity or criminal liability for
natural persons responsible for the firm’s involvement into such an activity. In this dissertation, I
discuss cartels and effectiveness of the CLP, administrative penalties, private damages and criminal
fines as key instruments available to competition authorities against cartels.
Mini Dissertation (LLM)--University of Pretoria, 2019.