Cape Town - A large producer of wire and steel products has been successful in getting the Competition Tribunal to decide its case against the Emfuleni Local Municipality in Gauteng, which it accuses of charging excessive prices for electricity.
The Tribunal ruled it did have jurisdiction to hear and decide the case, after Cape Gate (Pty) Ltd self-referred a complaint to the Tribunal against the municipality, accusing it of contravening the Competition Act by charging it excessive prices for electricity since 2017.
Cape Gate self-referred the complaint to the Tribunal after the Competition Commission decided to non-refer the matter.
The municipality argued the Tribunal did not have jurisdiction to hear Cape Gate’s complaint, because it fell within the National Energy Regulator of SA’s (Nersa) investigatory powers.
It argued Cape Gate should have exhausted “internal remedies” or procedures set out in the Electricity Regulation Act before approaching the competition authorities.
Cape Gate, in turn, argued Nersa did not have the power to adjudicate over alleged conduct relating to excessive pricing.
It emphasised the distinction between price discrimination and excessive pricing, and argued that even in the event that Nersa had jurisdiction over alleged excessive pricing, then such jurisdiction was shared concurrently between the competition authorities and Nersa.
In dismissing the municipality’s technical legal point on jurisdiction, the Tribunal concluded: “…it is beyond doubt that the Tribunal has jurisdiction with regard to this complaint of excessive pricing... The assertion that Cape Gate was required to pursue an ‘internal remedy’ through a complaint to Nersa is without foundation”.