The Competition Commission has argued that it is obligated to investigate any excessive pricing complaints which may have an effect on economic activity in the country.
This after Sasol brought forward an application before the Competition Tribunal for the suspension of a summons imposed on it by the Competition Commission to provide the information it used for its proposed 96% price increase on pipeline gas.
The commission says it issued a summons after Sasol failed to honour an invitation to provide the requested documentation. The Competition commission’s legal representative, advocate Thembeka Ngcukaitobi says Sasol’s application for suspension borders on abuse of power.
“The first question under 3.1 would be whether or not the decision by Nersa to impose a price that is regarded by the commission to be an excessive price or at least to be investigated as an excessive price amounts to economic activity within or having an effect in the republic, we have not heard any argument that it doesn’t. So plainly under 3.1 – the Competition Commission would have the jurisdiction to instigate this. So we say that there is nothing in the text or the provisions that have been referred to do not exclude the jurisdiction of the commission or the Tribunal.”
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Sasol argues that only the National Energy Regulatory of South Africa (Nersa) has powers to make determinations on the price and not the Competition Tribunal.
The complainants in the matter which include the Industrial Gas Users Association of South Africa, argue that the proposed increase will result in manufacturing cutbacks and will cost the economy over R300-million per month.
Sasol’s legal representative Advocate Frank Snykers says, “The summon is invasive and extensive, SASOL Gas is already subject to two other processes relating to the very price level at issue. One before NERSA whose currently engaging with it and one before the high court, a challenge by the very complainers to the very price decision which is on review. It was set down on 12 and 13 February, I think it’s been moved to May this year, so justice and equity demand the sensible approach for avoiding unnecessary prejudice and waste.”