Since Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel last month issued regulations prohibiting firms from charging excessive prices for specified foods and services necessary to minimise the spread of Covid-19, more excessive pricing regulations have been issued.
The additional regulations, which came into force from April 3, contain rules governing the filing of complaint referrals with the Competition Tribunal for alleged contraventions of the Competition Act, as well as Consumer Protection regulations.
The excessive pricing regulations allow for complaint referrals to be brought to the tribunal on an urgent basis. The tribunal has made provision for the referrals to be heard remotely in light of the national lockdown.
The tribunal has also made provision to hear the complaint referrals on an expedited basis.
The tribunal explains that a complainant bringing a complaint referral must do so by notice of motion. A complaint is defined in the excessive pricing regulations and includes the Competition Commission, or a complainant who filed the complaint with the commission, which the commission decided not to refer to the tribunal itself.
The notice of motion must be served on a respondent and filed with the tribunal with proof of service on the respondent on the same day.
The respondent must serve its answering affidavit within 72 hours of receipt of the complaint referral, and file it with the tribunal on the same day. The applicant may serve a replying affidavit on the respondent, and file it with the tribunal with proof of service on the same day.
The tribunal will set the matter down for hearing within 48 hours of the close of pleadings.
The applicant and the respondent must file a joint statement with the tribunal within 24 hours of the close of pleadings indicating the facts and issues which are agreed between them and those which are in dispute.
The commission will consolidate complaint referrals on the basis of the same products or services, or same respondents.
All the documents in question must be filed electronically with the registrar of the tribunal at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
The tribunal says applications for consent orders between the commission and a respondent will be granted in chambers. The parties will not be required to attend the hearing during the lockdown period.
The tribunal will strive to issue an order within 24 hours of hearing the application for the consent order.
Unopposed applications, where the respondent has not filed an answering affidavit, will be decided on the papers and in chambers. The tribunal may request additional information from the applicant to be submitted electronically.
The applicant will not be required to be present for the hearing during the lockdown period. The tribunal will again strive to issue an order within 24 hours of hearing the application.
In the case of opposed applications, where there is not dispute of facts, as indicated in the joint statement of issues by the parties, hearings will be heard in chambers by the tribunal.
The tribunal may, if required, request additional information from the parties to be submitted electronically. Parties may be required to be present for a hearing, which may be conducted through audio or video conference.
In opposed applications where there is a substantial dispute of facts, which cannot be resolved on the papers, the tribunal will require parties to participate in a hearing which will be conducted through audio or video conference.