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R100m collusion case over air tickets, accommodation for MPs thrown out

Jan 16 2020 20:05

The Competition Tribunal has dismissed a price fixing and collusive tendering case involving air tickets and accommodation for members of Parliament.

Two companies – namely Tourvest Holdings and Trigon Travel – were accused by the Competition Commission of colluding when bidding for the R100m tender in 2015. They were among 16 bidders.

In terms of the tender, the winning bidder would have to process an estimated 28 000 transactions for an annual spend of R100m during the contracting period, the Tribunal said.

Referring the matter to the Tribunal in 2017, the Commission relied on certain features of the companies' bids which were identical, namely the bid price, the companies' broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) status and procurement level, and the submission of the bids on the same day.

However, said the Tribunal, it conceded that it had no direct evidence of collusion between Tourvest and Trigon.

Instead, its case was based on drawing inferences from the similarity of the bids and an existing commercial relationship between them. The companies have an indirect commercial relationship through a buying group with suppliers of travel services, such as airlines.

The companies denied the allegations, arguing that they each compiled their bids independently, and that the Commission failed to put up sufficient facts and evidence to back up its allegation.

" The gist of their argument was that they independently arrived at the bid price; and that any potential incentive to collude (because of their membership in the buying group) was outweighed by each company winning the tender on its own," said the Tribunal.

"On the objective facts before us, the Commission has not discharged the onus to enable us to draw an inference of an agreement or concerted practice by the respondents…The complaint referral against the respondents must therefore be dismissed," the Tribunal added.

* Compiled by Marelise van der Merwe

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