/ 20 April 2011

Milk industry’s price-fixing case goes a-whey

A price-fixing case against Clover, Ladismith Cheese, Nestlé and Parmalat has been withdrawn, the Competition Commission said on Wednesday.

“The Competition Commission has withdrawn its case against … the remaining respondents in its long-running prosecution of the milk processors that started in December 2006,” it said in a statement.

“This prosecution related to, among other allegations, price-fixing conduct.”

Clover had applied for leniency for some of the allegations.

The decision to withdraw the case followed a Supreme Court of Appeal ruling in September 2010 upholding objections by Woodlands Dairy and Milkwood Dairy to the commission’s investigation.

“The appeal court ruled that the commission’s initiation of an investigation into anti-competitive conduct in the milk industry was unlawful because it did not specify allegations faced by each firm and was not based on a reasonable suspicion that all firms in the industry were engaged in such conduct.”

The commission said the case related to conduct that existed until at least 2006.

“Dynamics in the milk market have changed since the investigation and referral of this case to the tribunal,” the commission said.

The commission said it had put together a team to see if there were any current competition concerns in the industry. — Sapa