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Bread class action bid gets new life

Nov 29 2012 15:02 Sapa

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Bloemfontein - An application for a class action against three Western Cape bread makers -- Pioneer Foods, Premier Foods, and Tiger Consumer Brands -- was referred back to the High Court by the Supreme Court of Appeal on Thursday.

The case was brought by a number of NGOs and five individuals against the bread bakers. The matter relates to the Competition Tribunal fining Tiger Brands, Pioneer Foods, and Premier Foods for their involvement in bread price fixing.

The SCA judgment referred the matter back to the Western Cape High Court, but also laid down requirements for such an action.

In order to launch a class action lawsuit, parties seeking redress must obtain a certificate of a class action from the High Court.

In this matter the Children's Resource Centre, the Black Sash Trust, the Congress of SA Trade Unions, and the National Consumer Forum brought an application for a class certification order.

This was on behalf of consumers allegedly harmed by the anti-competitive conduct of the bread makers.

The initial certification application was dismissed on the grounds that the aggrieved parties had failed to make out a case for a sufficiently identifiable class of persons.

On readmitting the case in the High Court, the SCA said the issue of certification had to be determined on complete papers.

It had to include draft particulars of the claim and affidavits indicating that there was a prima facie case on the merits.

The SCA held the application had been dealt with as matter of urgency, and as a result the bread makers had not been able to put their full case before the court.

It was held that the case of the appellants -- the NGOs and individuals -- had also changed during the cause of the litigation.

The court found the proposed class action was also overly broad and the relief it sought inappropriate.

However, the SCA held the group's claim was potentially plausible, and with the court laying down the requirements for a class action, it was appropriate to afford them an opportunity to correct the flaws in the court papers in line with the new requirements.

The case could then continue in the High Court with the requirements laid down by the SCA on Thursday.
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