Johannesburg – The Competition Appeal Court on Monday set aside a predatory pricing case involving a community newspaper owned by Media24.
The company had been accused of engaging in predatory pricing to drive out independent publications around the Welkom area between January 2004 and February 2009.
Media24, through its newspaper Forum, had been taken to the Competition Tribunal for engaging in predatory pricing in the advertising market in the Goldfieds area, where it was competing with the independently-owned Gold Net News (GNN) in the Welkom area.
The Competition Commission had submitted that Media24 had used Forum as a “fighting brand” to prevent GNN and other potential new players from entering the market.
In 2011, the Competition Tribunal said Forum did not make economic sense, other than being used for predatory objectives.
In September 2016, the Tribunal ruled against Media24.
It said Media24’s actions had resulted in the closure of GNN which claimed to have experienced increasing losses in 2007, 2008 and 2009 as a result of Media24’s predatory practices.
Media24 appealed against the Competition Tribunal’s finding that it used predatory pricing to push out independent competitors.
In its ruling, the Competition Appeal said the Competition Tribunal had failed to prove that the dominant firm would have increased its cash profits by charging market related prices during the disputed period.
Judge President Dennis Davis ruled that “the decision of the Tribunal of September 8 2016 is set aside, and that the complaint referred by the Commission to the Tribunal on October 31 2011 is dismissed.”
Media24’s Forum was established in September 1983 and ceased publication at the end of January 2010.
On a separate case, the Competition Commission last week revealed that Media24 had agreed to pay a R14 million penalty for the fixing of trading conditions in a case brought against it and 27 other media companies by the Competition Commission.
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