The Competition Tribunal of South Africa has raised concerns regarding a proposed antitrust settlement between the Competition Commission and consumer goods giant Unilever.
- The settlement agreement, initially announced in July, involves Unilever paying a penalty of R16 million (approximately $1.1 million) without admitting guilt for alleged anticompetitive behavior spanning from 2004 to 2013.
- The Competition Commission had referred the case to the Tribunal in 2017, accusing Unilever and the South African division of Malaysian palm oil producer Sime Darby Hudson Knight of market collusion during the specified period.
- According to the commission’s investigation, Unilever and Sime Darby Hudson Knight had engaged in a business agreement involving the production and supply of different pack sizes of margarine and vegetable oils, potentially violating the Competition Act.
- Sime Darby Hudson Knight had previously settled the matter with the commission in 2016, while Unilever’s case has faced delays and lengthy proceedings.
- The Tribunal commissioner, Fiona Tregenna, expressed concerns over the proposed penalty, suggesting that it appeared to be on the lower side compared to other settlement agreements. She noted that Sime Darby Hudson Knight settled earlier and for a higher penalty.
- The Tribunal is expected to make a decision on the proposed settlement in the coming weeks, taking into account factors such as the length of the case, the sale of the business unit involved, and Unilever’s turnover.