JOHANNESBURG - Paramount Mills is the latest company in the industry to be slapped with a fine after it acknowledged engaging in collusive behaviour in which it admits to agreeing with its competitors to fix prices for milled white maize products and fix trading conditions from 1999 to 2006.
The Competition Tribunal confirmed the order for an administrative fine of R1.3million. According to the settlement papers, representatives of Paramount attended meetings and engaged in telephone conversations with competitors. The cartel directly fixed dates on which such agreed price increases were to be implemented and exchanged information about their pricing structures.
According to the settlement agreement, Paramount must pay half of the penalty within 10 days and the balance must be paid in 12 equal instalments, with the last instalment being paid on or before January 31 next year. Paramount is the 13th maize company in this case that has entered into an agreement with the Competition Commission over the years.
In March 2007, the commission started investigating whether Tiger Brands, Pioneer Foods, Foodcorp, Pride Milling and Progress Milling violated competition laws after the commission received a corporate leniency application from Premier, which was corroborated by a further corporate leniency application by Tiger Brands that same year. Other maize milling companies were later investigated. These included Bothaville Milling, Godrich Milling, TWK Milling, Keystone Milling, Westra Milling, Carolina Mills, Brenner Mills, Paramount Mills,
NTK Milling, Kalel Mills and Blinkwater Mills. In terms of the commission’s corporate leniency policy, a cartel member can disclose information on a cartel in return for immunity from prosecution and fines.