News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Sunday February 17th 2019

Court lets bread companies off the hook – organisations to appeal

Bread companies were found guilty of price fixing in 2007, now civil society organisations are going to the Supreme Court of Appeal in a bid to make them recompense the poor. Photo copyright: unknown

CIVIL society organisations intend going to the Supreme Court of Appeal after their application to sue major bread companies for millions of Rands following the bread price-fixing scandal was dismissed by the Cape High Court yesterday.

The applicants include the Black Sash, trade union federation Cosatu, the National Consumer Forum, the Children’s Trust and five individual bread consumers who seek to have the bread companies recompense consumers through paying into a trust fund.

Bread companies Tiger Brands, Pioneer Foods and Premier Foods were all found guilty of price fixing, with the Competition Commission fining Tiger Brands R98 million and Pioneer Foods, R195.7 million. Premier Foods co-operated with the investigation that found the cartel had been guilty of anti-competitive behaviour for 12 years.

While the companies were fined, the civil society organisations contend that bread consumers should be reimbursed.

Yesterday was the second time that the application was dismissed by the court, following Judge Francois van Zyl’s dismissal earlier this year.

Nkosikhulile Nyembezi of Black Sash said they remain undeterred and will petition the Supreme Court of Appeal.

“The poor have been robbed for years…we will continue to fight for justice,” he said.

“We believe a different court will arrive at a different decision. We will be taking this matter further with the Supreme Court of Appeals to argue our case so that we must get a certification on behalf of all bread consumers.

“All the people who have been negatively affected by the artificial increase of bread need to be compensated.”

He said compensation would be paid into a trust fund for poverty alleviation programmes, such as school feeding schemes.

Cosatu provincial organiser Mike Louw said they were “disappointed” with the judge’s decision but “certainly not deterred”.

“The fact that the Competition Commission found these companies guilty works on our favour.”

Speaking on behalf of Tiger Brands, Bongiwe Njobe said the company welcomed the High Court ruling.

The company will be studying the judgement in detail before making any further pronouncements,” he said. — Sandiso Phaliso


Tags: Black Sash, Bread price fixing scandal, Cosatu, Judge Francois van Zyl, National Consumer Forum, Pioneer Foods, Premier Foods, Supreme Court of Appeal, Tiger Brands, Western Cape High Court

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