Picture: Independent Media

Pretoria - Seven companies specialising in supplying, installing and maintaining fire control and protection systems have been referred by the Competition Commission to the Competition Tribunal for prosecution for price fixing and other contraventions of the Competition Act.

The companies are Afrion Property Services CC, Belfa Fire, Cross Fire Management, Fire Protection Systems, Fireco, Fireco Gauteng and Tshwane Fire Sprinklers CC.

The referral followed the search and seizure dawn raid by commission investigators in March 2015 on the offices of six Gauteng based firms as part of an investigation into alleged collusive conduct in the market for the provision of fire control and protection systems.

This included the installation and maintenance of automatic sprinkler systems, hydrants, hose reels and extinguishers.

Sipho Ngwema, a spokesperson for the commission, said on Wednesday the investigation found that, from at least 1996 to 2015, the companies entered into agreements and/or engaged in a concerted practice to fix prices, divide markets and tendered collusively in relation to tenders for supplying, installing and maintaining fire control and protection systems.

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Ngwema said the investigation also revealed that the collusive conduct by these companies, which operate in South Africa and the rest of the continent, was carried out through bilateral and multilateral agreements using exchange of cover prices through sharing of bills of quantities, telephone, faxes, emails and occasional meetings.

He said the firms also agreed to “respect” each other’s allocated customers by not bidding competitively for tenders issued by those customers.

Ngwema said the commission was seeking an order from the tribunal declaring that the companies had contravened the Competition Act and were liable to pay a maximum administrative penalty equal to 10 percent of their annual turnover.