February 27, 2018 / 2:07 PM / 10 months ago

South Africa seeks price-fixing fines against 28 media firms

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa’s competition watchdog said on Tuesday it had recommended fines against 28 media companies that include a unit e-commerce and media giant Naspers for fixing prices to advertising agencies.

The watchdog said in a statement it was seeking an order declaring that the companies breached competition rules and were liable to pay administrative penalties. Under the rules, companies in contravention of the law can be penalised as much as 10 percent of their annual turnover.

The Competition Commission, which investigates anticompetitive conduct, has referred the matter to the Competition Tribunal for adjudication, it said.

The Commission said the companies, which also include Primedia, owner of one the biggest names in South African radio, Talk Radio 702, coordinated discounts and payment terms to advertising agencies that placed advertisements with members of an industry body group called Media Credit Co-Ordinators.

“The practices restricted competition among the competing companies as they did not independently determine the discounts,” the Commission said.

Three companies, broadcaster DStv owned by Naspers, newspaper publishers Caxton and Independent Media, have already admitted to the charges and respectively paid 22.3 million rand, 5.8 million rand and 2.2 million rand in administrative penalties.

Other companies that have been referred to the Tribunal include Avusa, which has since changed its name to Tiso Blackstar, owner of the biggest weekend newspaper Sunday Times.

Reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng; Editing by James Macharia

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