27 May 2015 by Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr

Competition Commission conducts further dawn raids

On 20 March 2015, the Competition Commission conducted a dawn raid at the premises of six Gauteng based suppliers of fire control and protection systems (whose services include the installation and maintenance of automatic sprinkler systems, hydrants, hose reels, and extinguishers).

The Commission may conduct dawn raids on firms where it has reasonable grounds to believe that a prohibited practice is taking place, or that information or documents relevant to an on-going investigation is at the premises being raided and subject to obtaining (in most instances) a warrant to conduct the search and seizure operations. The Commission stated that, in this instance, the dawn raids formed part of its ongoing investigation into this market, where the Commission believes the implicated firms colluded when bidding for tenders for the provision of fire control and protection systems and that the Commission had reasonable grounds to believe that information relevant to its investigation was at the firms' premises.

The Commission confirmed that the dawn raids were conducted after obtaining the requisite warrants approving the search and seizure operations.

In the past year, the Commission has actively engaged in a string of dawn raids, affirming its intention to bring an end to anti-competitive collusive behaviour. During April 2014, dawn raids were carried out at the premises of two firms in respect

of the Commission's investigation into the market for the manufacture and supply of edible oils and margarine. During July 2014, the Commission conducted dawn raids at business premises of three auto body firms as part of its investigation into collusive conduct in the market for auto body repairs. (This investigation has now been referred to the Competition Tribunal).

Dawn raids are, by their nature, invasive processes and firms are encouraged to have comprehensive plans in place to react in a controlled and efficiently manner in order to minimise the impact and safeguard their rights.

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