Judgment reserved in bread price fixing appeal

Judgment was reserved in the Western Cape High Court on Saturday in the appeal by the Black Sash and others against a decision to deny them a class action lawsuit against major bread companies.

Acting Judge Francois van Zyl said judgment would be delivered in about two weeks.

A class action lawsuit is filed on behalf of a group of people who were in some way injured by the actions of a company.

In November last year Van Zyl dismissed an application by the Black Sash and its co-applicants to certify them as the representatives of bread eaters in the Western Cape in their class action lawsuit against bread makers Tiger Brands, Pioneer Foods and Premier Foods.

The other applicants included the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the National Consumer Forum, the Children’s Resources Centre and five individual bread consumers.

The application for a class action lawsuit followed the Competition Commission’s findings that all the major bread producers had participated in a bread price fixing cartel.

Shortly after the court case on Saturday, Black Sash Advocacy Programme Manager Nkosikhulule Nyembezi said they awaited the judgment with “anticipation”.

“We remain confident on the strength of the case given the fact that the competition authorities made a ruling that they were guilty of collusion.”

He said Statistics South Africa reported that over 20% of people in the country went to bed without food and this proved the case was very important for the people.

He said the Black Sash and its co-applicants remained committed and determined to pursue and secure compensation on behalf of the millions of consumers who had suffered as a result of corrupt and corrosive business practices.

Attorney Charles Abrahams, representing the consumers, said an appeal was filed because they believed that a different judge may see the case differently.

“We think that his [Van Zyl] findings might be set aside by a different court. A different court might come to a different conclusion.”

Abrahams said one of the reasons the application was dismissed in November was because the judge found, based on the papers presented to him, that there was no clear definition as to who constituted the “class”.

“He could not see how the broad class’s rights had been infringed… It was difficult to certify such a class.”

Abrahams said it was not just about who they represented, but about the fact that people’s constitutional rights were violated by the companies that participated in the cartel to fix the price of bread. — Sapa

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