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Former Auction boss Rael Levitt and two leading figures at the auction house have won their Western Cape High Court battle against the National Consumer Commission after the court set aside three summonses this week compelling the men to appear before the commission.
Acting Judge Rob Stelzner found that the commission’s decision to issue the summonses was “inconsistent with the constitution” and invalid.
Levitt, auction house chairman Sango Ntsaluba and chief financial officer and acting CEO, Bruce Sneddon, were summonsed to appear before the commission on May 4 after billionaire, Wendy Appelbaum, lodged a complaint with the commission in January.
Appelbaum, who was the winning bidder for the controversial Quoin Rock wine estate in December last year, had disputed the auction process, saying she was the only genuine bidder.
The commission investigated the issue and ruled in April that Auction Alliance was guilty of contravening the Consumer Protection Act by conducting a “mock auction”.
The commission issued Auction Alliance with a compliance notice and later summonsed the men to appear before it.
But the men took the issue to the High Court, where their lawyers argued that the summonses were invalid and unconstitutional on the basis that the commission had already made a ruling and the investigation was complete.
In a judgment handed down on Monday, Stelzner said the commission went ahead with the hearing and reached a final decision without hearing any oral evidence from Auction Alliance and the three men.
He found that the powers of the commissioner, Mamodupi Mohlala, were restricted to the act and that she could not issue summonses once the investigation was complete.
The commission and the commissioner were also ordered to pay costs.
Levitt’s attorney, Alan Smiedt, told Independent Newspapers they would take the matter to the National Consumer Tribunal to set aside the compliance order – an effective fine of 10 percent of Auction Alliance’s annual turn over.
“It is clear the commissioner exceeded her powers,” Smiedt said.