Inquiries ensure competition

FILE PICTURE:  Former Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo. Picture: Sabrina Dean.

FILE PICTURE: Former Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo. Picture: Sabrina Dean.

Market inquiries into a certain sector, such as the Competition Commission’s probe into private health care, ensure competition, former chief justice Sandile Ngcobo said in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

“Market inquiries enhance competition,” he told journalists on the commission’s inquiry into the private health care sector in South Africa. He heads the probe.

“A market inquiry is no more than a research project which is conducted in order to gain an in-depth understanding of how sectors, markets, and practices work.”

Ngcobo said the primary focus would be to determine if competition in the sector was working or could be improved. The inquiry was triggered by concerns about the functioning of markets.

“The market inquiry is fundamentally investigative or inquisitorial in nature, it is not accusatory,” he said.

“No one is accused of anti-competitive conduct. The focus is on how the market as a whole functions.”

The mandate was to find the likely causes of price increases and expenditures that tended to be above inflation in the sector.

The inquiry would make recommendations on appropriate policy and regulatory mechanisms to support accessible, affordable, and quality private health care.

It would also make recommendations on whether price-setting mechanisms were acceptable. Ngcobo said there were a whole range of findings that could be reached, including that the market was not functioning well.

Speaking on confidentiality concerns that some businesses might have, Ngcobo said firms were protected in the relevant legislation. He said the panel conducting the inquiry needed to be satisfied the information was confidential.

“The Competition Tribunal will have the last say on the validity of the confidentiality claim. Protection of confidentiality is important to ensure that the panel receives all the information it requires.”

Ngcobo said although dates had yet to be set, public hearings were expected to start on March 1, 2015. The panel hoped to publish a draft for public comment on May 31. The public would be given a chance to comment in June and these would be considered in July, he said.

The final administrative guidelines would be published on August 1.

A primary concern for the panel was that everyone had an opportunity to contribute.



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