The Competition Commission had raided the offices of three panelbeating firms in Pretoria on Friday as part of its ongoing investigation into collusive conduct in the market, spokesman Themba Mathebula said.

Search and seizures were conducted at the premises of Precision & Sons and Eldan Auto Body in Pretoria West, and the Vehicle Accident Assessment Centre (VAAC) in Centurion.

Mathebula said the commission had obtained search warrants from the North Gauteng High Court. He said Precision and Eldan were approved auto body repairers to original equipment manufacturers including Mercedes-Benz, Toyota and Jeep.

VAAC rendered vehicle assessment services to customers of Precision and Eldan.

Mathebula said the commission had reasonable grounds to believe that information relevant to the investigation was at the premises of the companies. He said it was conducting the operation with due regard to the rights of the firms and all the affected persons.

During the search, the commission would seize documents and electronic data, which would be analysed together with other information gathered to determine whether contraventions of the Competition Act had taken place.

In terms of section 48 of the act, the commission is authorised to search premises and seize documents that have a bearing on an investigation.

In April the commission conducted search and seizure operations at Unilever South Africa’s headquarters in Umhlanga, north of Durban, and at the offices of Sime Darby Hudson & Knight in Boksburg on the East Rand. The raids were part of the commission’s continuing investigation into collusive conduct in the markets for the manufacture and supply of edible oils and margarine to wholesale and retail customers.

Unilever is a global manufacturer and brand owner of food, spices, detergents, margarine, cooking oil and beauty products, among others.

Sime Darby Hudson & Knight is a Malaysia-based multinational. Its South African operations produce and sell premium fats and oils.

Abri du Plessis, the chief investment officer at Gryphon Asset Management, said Unilever had a reputable management team “but I have a feeling that where there is smoke, there is fire”. This action proved that any organisation could not control all its employees.