On 13 February 2019, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the Competition Amendment Act, 2019 into law. The commencement date has yet to be published in the Government Gazette.
In South Africa, economic concentration results in fewer opportunities for SME’s and black entrepreneurs.
These amendments aim to empower the competition authorities and government to create new opportunities for SME’s and black entrepreneurs to enter and compete on equal footing in various sectors in the economy.
Key changes introduced by the amendments are:
1) Small and medium businesses owned or controlled by historically disadvantaged persons will be able to enjoy protection against price discrimination and unfair purchasing practices by dominant firms;
2) Rules for larger influential businesses have been refined with regard to aspects such as pricing, margin squeeze, and excessive pricing;
3) There will be harsher penalty charges for both first-time offenders and repeat offenders;
4) The competition authorities will now have greater flexibility in granting exemptions that promote economic development, transformation and growth;
5) The competition authorities are mandated to consider additional competitive and public interest factors in a merger review;
6) The National Executive can intervene in relation to mergers that affect the national security interests of South Africa;
7) The Competition Commission has the power to conduct impact studies;
8) The Minister of Economic Development is empowered to (after consultation) require that the Competition Commission conduct a market inquiry;
9) The Commission’s findings and actions following a market inquiry are binding, unless challenged in the Tribunal; and
10) Changes to the confidentiality regime;
The above changes will impact Competition Law in South Africa greatly.