The Commercial Case Law Index is a collection of judgments from African countries on topics relating to commercial legal practice. The collection aims to provide a snapshot of commercial legal practice in a country, rather than present solely traditionally "reportable" cases. The index currently covers 400 judgments from Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa.
Get started on finding judgments that are relevant to you by browsing the topic list on the left of the screen. Click the arrows next to the topic names to reveal a detailed list of sub-topics. Most judgments are accompanied by a short summary written by subject-matter expert postgraduate students from the University of Cape Town.
The court considered whether a licensing agreement concluded between the parties, granting certain rights for a period of 5 years, amounted to a merger in terms of s 12(1) of the Competition Act 89 of 1998 (the act).
The focus was on whether the transaction would lead to structural changes in the market, thus, whether there is a reasonable chance that the transaction could impact on a competitive market outcome. It was argued that the transaction amounted to a transfer of the second respondent’s business, thus an acquisition of control. The court considered what is the appropriate test for acquiring or establishing direct or indirect control over the whole or part of the business for another was. Thus, in line with USA academic Professor Herbet Hovenkamp’s ‘Hovenkamp test’, the component of the business which was transferred must have constituted part of the business of the transferor, which has now been placed under direct or indirect control of the transferee.
The court held that, there had been no transfer of productive capacity which would amount to the transfer of market share, indicating that the transfer of the business could not have taken place within the realm of the license agreement. The court ordered that the commission was to give a report ascertaining whether there had been a change of control, and if it had, then the matter was referred back to the tribunal for determination.
The court held that, there was nothing in the agreement which amounted to a merger as defined in terms of the act. Appeal upheld.
The appellants are the only producers of andalusite in South Africa. The appellants notified the competition commission (the commission) of an intermediate merger in terms of s13A Competition Act 89 of 1998 (the act), which the commission prohibited. The competition tribunal (the tribunal) confirmed that prohibition. The appellants appealed to the competition appeal court (‘CAC’) contending that the merger should have been permitted subject to tendered conditions.
The CAC held that the tribunal ought to have relied on the s12A test where:
(i) it determined at first whether merger is likely to substantially prevent or lessen competition ;
(ii) whether the merger can or cannot be justified on substantial public interest grounds by assessing the factors set out in s12A(3) of the act; and
(iii) if the determination in (i) is ‘no’, the tribunal must determine whether the merger can or cannot be justified on substantial public interest grounds.
The CAC concluded that the merger was anti-competitive as it would give rise to a monopoly market. Additionally, the merging parties failed to portray any pro-competitive gains or public interest considerations which justified the merger. The appeal was therefore dismissed.
This application was in relation to a court order that the Competition Appeal Court (the CAC) granted in June 2016. This order held that the agreement between the first and second respondents did not give rise to a merger within the meaning of s 12(1) of the Competition Act 89 of 1998 (the act).
In the current application, the core issue to be resolved was the proper interpretation of the order granted by the CAC. Furthermore, evidence was sought to be led with regards to the parliamentary hearing that was conducted on 7 December 2016.
The CAC held that this order was clear and unambiguous. Accordingly it was not open to the CAC to give it a fresh interpretation or to supplement its meaning.
With regards to the parliamentary hearing, the CAC held that an order which would empower the commission to conduct interviews with both Mr Naidoo and Ms Makhobo fell outside the scope of the order it granted in June 2016. However, since the transcript of the parliamentary hearings was a public document, it found it not to be an obstacle to have the commission examine this transcript. The CAC held that whatever information contained in this transcript may be employed by the commission in order to make a recommendation as to whether the agreement falls within the definition of merger in terms of the act.
Competition – Unlawful Competition – Collusive Tendering – appropriate penalty
The case is an appeal by Media 24 Property Ltd which owns Forum and Vista community newspapers distributed in Welkom town against a decision of the Competition Commission Tribunal (the tribunal) which found that the selling of Forum newspaper in Welkom was predatory in contravention of s 8(c) of the Competition Act (the act). The tribunal ruled that the Forum newspaper was priced below the average cost to the detriment of other newspapers. In order to reach its decision, the tribunal employed the Average Total Cost concept (ATC).
On appeal, the appellant was challenging the use of the ATC concept as an appropriate benchmark for determining predatory pricing under the act. The court held that there are two tests for determining predatory pricing under s 8(d)(iv) being the benchmark of marginal cost and the Average Value Cost (AVC). It ruled that in order for the respondent (the commission) to show that the conduct of the appellant was predatory in nature, it needed to establish that the appellant is the dominant firm involved in selling goods below the marginal or (AVC). The court found that the ATC standard cannot be used to measure predatory pricing. It ruled that the Average Avoidable Cost (AAC) was the appropriate cost benchmark to determine predatory pricing. In light of evidence provided by the parties, the court found that the respondent failed to prove that Forum’s AAC exceeded its revenue hence the appeal was upheld.
Competition – Shareholders agreement – Non-compete clause – Whether a violation of horizontal restraints under the Competition Act
Contract – limitation of liability clause – suing in delict to escape application of limitation of liability clause
Delict – wrongfulness – duty of care
The applicants sought to interdict the respondents from applying the provisions of the Medicines and Related Substances Act (Medicines Act) and prevent them from seizing and detaining Playboy e-cigarettes and hookahs pending the outcome of part B of the application. A consignment of e-cigarettes belonging to the first applicant was seized by the first respondent. Part B of the application was a review of the decision by the respondents to amend Schedules 1, 2, and 3 of the Medicines Act.
The two issues in dispute were that the Medicines Act was being selectively enforced against the applicant as there had been no measures or steps taken in the past against other importers, distributors or retailers of e-cigarettes. Secondly, that the seizure of the consignment was not in accordance with the Medicines Act.
The respondents contended that selective enforcement took place due to capacity constraints. Whether or not the selective enforcement was constitutional depended upon whether there was a rational basis therefor. The court held that the selection was irrational and targeted the applicant for no objective reason. The means by which the respondent went about enforcing the Medicines Act against the applicant and no other retailer, distributor or importer was not connected to the governmental purpose of regulating e-cigarettes containing nicotine. The seizure of the consignment was set aside in terms of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act. The court held that there was no need to make a determination on the interpretation of the Medicines Act.
The application was granted with costs.
South African Airways (SAA) received government funding on four occasions (since 2007). The applicant contended that SAA’s operation was non-commercial, anti-competitive and prejudicial to other air transport services. The decisions to issue a R5.6 billion guarantee to SAA on 26 September 2012, and to extend the guarantee’s period, were the subject of the review. Applicant argued that the decision was unlawful and ultra vires of the Public Finance Management Act; violated the separation of powers; violated sections 7(2), 9, and 22 of the Constitution; irrational; procedurally unfair; and in violation of Comair’s legitimate expectations.
The court held that pronouncing on the legality of the first decision was moot as there would be no utility in the order or in pronouncing on the issues related to it. It was separate from the extended guarantee. Furthermore, the court found that it did not have jurisdiction to decide issues based on Competition Law. The court also held that it was not in its jurisdiction to decide on matters of policy, to which the decision to issue the guarantee amounted.
Due to the dynamic nature of the market, need for flexibility, and to intervene in the dire circumstances of SAA as a strategic asset, the court held that there was no basis for forming a legitimate expectation by the applicant. The court also held that the decision was rational as it considered all relevant factors and involved multi-level input from different governmental departments.
The application was dismissed with no order as to costs.
This issue was whether the Minister of Finance (applicant) has powers to intervene where the respondent's (Oak Bay Investments) bank accounts were being closed. In deciding the case, the court employed the Superior Court Act 10 of 2013 (the act) which empowers the court to enquire into and determine any rights and obligation a person can claim.
The court held that the enquiry envisaged by s21(c) of the act encompasses a two-legged enquiry. The court must be satisfied that the applicant is a person interested in an existing, future or contingent right and whether the case is a proper one in which to exercise its jurisdiction.
The court ruled that there is no statute that empowers a minister to intervene in a private bank client dispute. Banks can terminate a relationship with a client at their own discretion. It observed that there was no uncertainty in regard to the relief sought by the applicant as there was a court precedent relating to relief being sought. The court held that the Minister of Finance through his counsel knew very well that he has no power to intervene. The court ruled that it is not obliged to grant the order sought by the minister because there was no uncertainty in regard to the legal question. It ruled further that to allow the relief sought would breach the principal of separation of powers as it will amount to judiciary to stray into domain of the executive.
The applicants sought an interim interdict against the respondent bank, with which they had a bank-client relationship, to restrain it from terminating the operations of the applicants’ banking facilities.
The court considered whether courts could direct the respondent to continue its operations in the country against its will. The court held that the respondent’s decision to exit the country’s banking sector is one that the courts cannot interfere with.
The court relied on the respondent’s constitutional right to trade, which also entails the election of not utilising such right. The court remarked that the respondent’s decision to cease operations in the country rested on commercial considerations which were highlighted in para 15 of the judgement.
The respondents right to or not trade supersedes any right the applicant may have, thus the application was dismissed with costs.
The applicants sought an order declaring that the respondent’s premature removal of an advertisement from a billboard under the latter’s control was unlawful and unconstitutional. The advertisement concerned Israel’s occupation of Palestine depicted by contrasting maps.
The applicants contested the removal on several grounds, including freedom of expression, which is entrenched by section 16 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. Because respondent was not a state entity, this raised questions of when s 16 may be horizontally applied.
The respondent substantiated its conduct in terms of its agreement with the second applicant, arguing it was permissible due to the advertisement’s alleged contravention of the City’s advertising by-laws, the Practice Code of the Advertising Standards Authority, as well as its own internal policies.
The court found no legitimate basis in the parties’ agreement, on these facts, for the respondent’s removal of the advertisement prior to the stipulated flighting period. As a private body, the respondent was not positively burdened with respecting, promoting and upholding the applicants’ right to freedom of expression. However, it still faced a negative duty not to interfere with it.
The court granted the application and directed the respondent to reinstate the advertisement, subject to practical qualifications. A portion of 9(h) of the Outdoor Advertising By-Laws of the City of Johannesburg was held to be invalid for exceeding the constitutional limitations of free speech.
Competition - prohibited practices - quantifying a damages claim based on the finding of a tribunal
This case dealt with emolument attachment orders (EAO) that had been obtained through written consent by the applicants. The applicants were a group of low-income earners and vulnerable occupants that only had their salaries and wages as a means to survival. The issue was that the EAOs were from jurisdictions far from where the applicants resided. This case pinpoints the importance of issuing EAOs that are just and equitable, by focusing on the processes that the respondents had followed to secure repayment of loans. This case also illustrates the duty to protect citizens against human rights abuses by business enterprises by having effective remedies that protect victims.
The court considered whether the respondents’ conduct fell within the scope of section 65J(1)(a) of the Magistrates’ Court Act which allows an attachment on a debtor’s earnings and obliges his or her employer to pay out of such earnings specific instalments in favour of the creditor. The court held that section 45 of the Magistrates’ Court Act provides that parties may consent to the jurisdiction of a court that does not have jurisdiction
The Court held that section 65(J)(1)(a) of the Magistrates’ Court Act had failed to provide a statutory limit on the EAOs which may be granted against a judgment debtor.
The Court found that the respondents had denied the applicants their constitutional right to approach the courts by obtaining judgments and EAOs in courts that were far from the applicants’ workplaces and homes. The court held that the respondents’ actions were a result of them forum shopping for courts which entertained their applications. The court held that in this case where the applicants had admitted liability for the debts and had consented to the EAOs, section 45 of the Magistrates’ Court Act did not permit that the applicants could consent to the jurisdiction of a court outside their district. Thus, the court found that the EAOs were in fact not just and equitable considering the statuses of the applicants.
Accordingly, the court upheld the applicants’ complaint and held that the EAOs were in breach of section 65(J)(1)(a) of the Magistrates’ Court Act.
The issue was whether it would be just and equitable to wind up the respondents in terms of s 81(1)(c)(ii) and s 81(d)(iii) read with s 157(1)(d) of the act on the grounds that executive directors of the first respondent unconsciously abused the corporate personality of the second respondent by acting unlawfully. The other issue was whether the minister had locus standi (the right or capacity to bring an action) to bring the application.
The court held that it was just and equitable to wind up a company if the company is conducting unlawful activities and where there is a deadlock between the parties. Further, that s 157 extends locus standi to a broad range of people.
The court found that there were just and equitable grounds to wind up the first respondent because there was a deadlock between the parties, unlawful misappropriation of public funds and non-disclosure. In that light, also wind up the second respondent because its existence depended on that of the first respondent. The court, also, found that the minister, as a member of the executive, had established the necessary locus standi to bring the application in the public interest in terms of s 157(1)(d).
Accordingly, the court granted the final liquidation and ordered that the costs of winding up include costs of the application.
The issue was whether a donation of an interest in a close corporation to the third respondent by the deceased could be declared unlawful and void for lack of consent in terms of s 15(2) and (3) of the Matrimonial Property Act (MPA). Further, if failure to set aside the donation timeously amounted to ratification in terms of s 15(4) of the MPA.
The court held in terms of s 15(4) that consent may be given by way of ratification within a reasonable time. If there was a lack of consent when entering into the transaction, the question is whether objectively, the benefiting party could have reasonably known that consent was required.
The court found that failure of the applicant to institute proceedings timeously does not support the conclusion that it was ratification in terms of s 15(4). The court also found that the conclusion of the transaction lacked the required consent. In that light, objectively, it was not incumbent for the third respondent to investigate the legal character of the deceased's first marriage before she accepted the donation. Therefore, deemed that there was consent in terms of s 15(3).
The court accordingly dismissed the application
The court considered whether a Financial Services Provider (FSP) as regulated according to the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services Act (FAAIS) was negligent by advising the plaintiff which led to a loss of two million Rands. Further, if the second defendant was liable to indemnify the first defendant for professional negligence considering the exclusion clause in the insurance contract.
The court held that s 16 of FAAIS requires that an FSP act honestly, fairly with due skill, care and diligence. Further that the FAAIS Code of Conduct requires professionalism, in the interest of the public. In the case of an insurance contract, the court held that an exclusion clause might make proper commercial sense, be consistent with and not repugnant to the purpose of the contract.
The court concluded that the defendant did not act in accordance with expectations of an FSP, the defendant was negligent and dishonest. Further, the purpose of the insurance contract was to indemnify the insured for professional negligence; the exclusion interpreted restrictively cannot be applicable in the case.
The defendant was ordered to pay damages of two million Rands plus interest and second defendant to indemnify the first defendant.
The appellant had decided not to claim two previous accidents because he did not want to lose his no-claim bonus. This case highlights the effects of an “OUT bonus” clause within an insurance policy that positively discourages clients from submitting claims.
The court considered whether the appellant’s failure to disclose the two previous incidents in which the vehicle was damaged within 30 days, allowed the respondent to avoid liability in terms of the contract. The court had to decide whether the appellant’s inaction amounted to a breach of the insurance policy, which had stated in plain language that one is rewarded for not claiming.
The court held that the insurer’s policy created a self-absorption of any damage caused by the insured, whereby, the insured was to be paid 10% of their premiums after the first three years of the policy. The court held that this formed the basis of the appellant’s decision to not disclose his claims.
The court was not satisfied that the appellant’s failure to disclose the two previous incidents within 30 days amounted to a rejection of the claim. The court held that the obligation to report “incidents” created uncertainty, especially in situations whereby the insured had no intention of lodging a claim. In this case, it was evident that the appellant’s decision not to claim was a result of the attraction of the OUT bonus.
Thus, the court upheld the appellant’s claim and held that the defendant was liable to compensate the appellant.
This case presented the first instance where South African labour courts were called to determine the relationship between a garden leave clause and a post termination restraint of trade clause where a contract of employment contained both.
The court considered whether the applicant had waived its right to enforce the notice period by terminating the first respondent’s employment with immediate effect and the reasonableness of the duration restraining the commercial activity of the first respondent in the garden leave clause and/or the post termination restraint clause.
The court held that the applicant was entitled to enforce the period of the garden leave and the post termination restraint of trade clause. The court adopted the rule that a garden rule provision should be taken into account when determining the reasonableness of the restraint duration. The court also took into account the seniority of the first respondent that exposed him to confidential knowledge of the applicant’s business and held that the cumulative restraint period of 12 months was reasonable.
Accordingly, the court granted the application and declared that the first respondent’s contract of employment terminated on 30 June 2016 and that he was restrained from disclosing any confidential information or engaging in any commercial activities with competitors until 31 December 2016.
The applicant brought a complaint against the defendants for contravening the market allocation prohibition of the Competition Act (the act) by entering into an ongoing agreement allocating market territory for the sale of locking products in both the Free State and Northern Cape. They sought to have the defendant’s conduct declared in contravention and consequently interdicted and charged with a 10% turnover administrative charge in respect of the contravention.
The first issue was whether the commission could allege market allocation for all products. Looking at the legislative powers of the commission, the Competition Tribunal reasoned that since the agreement’s subject matter covered all products the commission had authority therein.
The tribunal then considered whether the agreement was still ongoing after the coming into effect of the act and s 4(1)(b)(ii). It assessed the evidence and established that the defendants had not competed with each other since the entry into agreement until the time in issue and thus the agreement remained ongoing.
The final issue was whether the agreement’s rationale was in contravention of the section above. By looking at the ratio in American Soda Ash Corporation and Another vs. Competition Commission and Others  1 CPLR 1 (SCA) and The Competition-Commission and Pioneer Foods (Pty) Ltd, Case No: 15/CR/Feb07, the tribunal highlighted that s 4(1)(b)(ii)’s market allocation prohibition is a per se prohibition and thus there can be no justification for the conduct.
The agreement was held to be ongoing and in contravention of s 4(1)(b)(ii).
The matter involves a merger approval application for an already implemented merger between Media24 and Novus following concerns raised by Caxton and a consequent divestiture.
The Competition Tribunal first considered whether the merger had raised any competition concerns. It dealt with two concerns; information exchange and input foreclosure. In assessing the information exchange concern, the tribunal accepted the parties’ assertion that appointing non-operational persons to the Novus board would minimise the risk of information sharing.
Concerning the possibility of competitor foreclosure, the tribunal accepted that the lack of Novus’ competitors to absorb the foreclosed capacity gives more incentive for foreclosure. However, it reasoned that this incentive is countered by the divestiture which reduces media24’s control, both de jure and de facto, over Novus. Further, it noted that the other publications handled by Novus are not in competition with Media24 thus it would not need to foreclose.
The tribunal also considered if the merger raised public interest concerns, mainly whether the merger would negatively affect smaller businesses. It was stated that noting that there is reduced possibility of market foreclosure - conduct which would negatively impact these businesses, these concerns fell away. Moreover, it was noted that the merger would in fact positively impact B-BBEE shareholders of Media24 hence it positively served public interests.
The Tribunal therefore concluded that considering the divestiture and the absence of negative competition and public interests impacts, the merger transaction has to be approved.
This case developed common law to hold an employer liable where one of its employees is sexually harassed by a senior employee.
The court considered the employer’s liability in tort for sexual harassment of its junior employee by a senior employee. The court held that the first and second respondent were jointly and severally liable for the damages suffered by the plaintiff as a result of sexual assault perpetrated against her.
The court applied the rule that an employer is vicariously liable for the actions of its employee when an unlawful act is connected to the conduct authorised by the employer. The court held that the first respondent placed the second respondent in a senior position of trust and thus had the responsibility of ensuring that the second respondent was capable of that trust. This trust created the causal link between the second respondent and the wrongful act and that the employment relationship facilitated the sexual harassment.
The court also found the first respondent liable for imposing a two-week suspension as opposed to dismissing the second respondent for sexual harassment of a younger subordinate.
Accordingly, the court granted the application for damages in the sum of R4 million jointly and severally from the first and second defendant.
Application focused on the poor conditions and lack of maintenance and repair of the roads network of the farming communities of the Eastern Cape and the socio-economic effects that follow. The applicants sought a structural interdict against the respondents which would have the effect of declaring them legally obliged to repair roads in the province, along with an order that the obligations be complied with and the submission of reports illustrating the steps to be taken to fulfil the obligations.
Upon objection by the respondents, the court considered whether a structural interdict was appropriate in such circumstances and whether a constitutional or statutory basis for seeking such an interdict existed. The court held that there was a constitutional and statutory basis for a structural interdict.
According to s 125(2)(a) of the Constitution the premier, along with the executive council, exercise executive authority through the implementation of provincial legislation, thus failure to repair roads meant that the rights to education and access to health care were indirectly affected. In addition, s 3 of the act encompasses an obligation to use power which rests only on the MEC or persons delegated thereby.
Accordingly, the application and draft order of the applicants were both substantially successful as time frames were included by the court. A comprehensive order is set out in para 48 of the judgement. The first and second respondents were ordered to pay costs of application, including all reserved costs.
This was an application to compel the Competition Commission of South Africa to produce a record of investigation.
The issue emanated from an investigation by the respondent on banks on allegation of collusive conduct in regard to trade in foreign currency. The applicant was one of the banks investigated. The applicant requested without success on several times for the record of investigation from the respondent. It then made an application to compel the respondent to provide the record.
The respondent opposed the application arguing that the applicant should have proceeded by way of review under Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (PAJA) because its action amounted to an administrative act. The applicant on the other hand argued that the commission’s conduct did not constitute administrative action and the tribunal should consider the application.
In deciding the matter, the Competition Tribunal held that the respondent action did not qualify as administrative action because it does not meet the requirement of finality. However, it found that the Competition Commission cannot be compelled to provide the requested record because of the complex nature of the process. It ruled that the respondent should provide the requested record during discovery.
The respondent refused to accept the principle of simple interest. The appellant declined to pay compound interest. The dispute was taken to court for resolution. The liability whether to pay compound or simple interest can only commence from the date when the dispute whether to pay that interest is resolved.
The court held that when determining which interest to use a clear distinction needs to be made between the reasons for awarding a simple interest and those that justify an award of compound interest in legal proceedings. A simple interest arises invariably when a party which is liable or owes money fails to pay what is due before or on the date agreed, stipulated, implied. The court exercises its discretion as to the rate and date when interest shall be paid.
However, the award of compound interest depends on other different criteria beside the discretion of court. Compound interest is not founded simply on the mere fact of indebtedness nor on the date the principal debt becomes due nor on the duration it has taken to pay since accruing. It is based on one or more of a multiplicity of reasons such as the law applicable to the transaction, the nature of the business transacted or agreed between the parties, the construction of the agreement or contract made between the parties, the trade custom of the business out of which the indebtedness arose, intentions of the parties or the consequences of the commercial transaction that was concluded between them.
The court concluded that the arguments advanced on behalf of the respondent did not point to the award of a characteristically compound interest. There was no evidence presented or authorities cited to suggest that in this case compound interest was intended, implied or anticipated by the parties or implied by law. The authorities cited in this appeal did not assist court to decide that there was a compound interest implied or contemplated in this case. In the result, the appeal succeed.
The respondent sold a car to a man who paid half price and took the vehicle
leaving the original registration book with the respondent. The new buyer on
the same day sold the car to the appellant. The respondent bought a suit
against the appellant and his predecessor in title for orders of specific
performance of the sale agreement, damages, interest and costs of the suit.
The trial court entered judgment for the respondent and the appellant’s
appeal to the court of appeal was dismissed hence this appeal.
The first issue was whether the appellate court erred in law and in fact to conclude that the respondent could not be sued. The court observed a difference in the extent of immunity accorded in the domestic act and that granted in the Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank Charter of the Preferential Trade Area (PTA) for Eastern and Southern African States (the charter) and Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank Act (the act), with the charter providing for absolute immunity whilst the act offered functional immunity. It reasoned that the intention of the act is to govern the relationship between Uganda and the respondent. Applying the ejusdem generis rule (that a general term describing a list of specific terms denotes other things that are like the specific elements) to interpret the objectives of the act, the court concluded that immunity was not intended to extend to third party relationships as these are not covered by the functionality principle underpinning the act. The court held the appellate court erred in its finding and instead concluded against immunity.
The second question was whether it was a procedural requirement to obtain a waiver before instituting suit against the respondent. Reiterating the functionality basis of the respondent’s immunity and the fact that it did not extent to suits from third parties for contractual breach, the court reasoned that the waiver requirement was inapplicable and unnecessary. It thus concluded that there was no need to obtain a waiver before commencing suit and allowed the appeal.