A critical analysis of the competition authorities’ treatment of the element of causation in exclusionary abuse cases
Author: Sibusiso Radebe
Affiliations: Research Assistant, the Mandela Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
Source: Journal of Corporate and Commercial Law & Practice, Volume 6 Issue 2, 2020, p. 49 – 81
It is trite law that in order for an impugned act to be condemned in terms of the exclusionary abuse prohibition, entrenched under the Competition Act 89 of 1998, there must be evidence evincing that the said act caused some anti-competitive effect and that the anti-competitive effect caused by the said act outweighs any procompetitive effect caused by it. This position makes the element of causation of central importance in the determination of whether or not to condemn an impugned act in terms of the exclusionary abuse prohibition. However, despite the pivotal role played by causation in the resolution of exclusionary abuse cases, the competition authorities have repeatedly neglected to, inter alia, expound the framework of causation envisaged under the exclusionary abuse prohibition and state the legal principles upon which their conclusions of causation are based. This neglect has caused some competition law commentators to argue that the competition authorities have failed to assess the element of causation in exclusionary abuse cases. This paper examines exclusionary abuse case law through the lens of the common-law framework and tests for assessing causation and demonstrates that, despite the criticism levelled against the competition authorities, first, the authorities do in fact have a framework of causation and tests for assessing causation; secondly, the authorities have been employing the framework referred to above consistently since its first appearance in the case law; and thirdly, the said framework is consistent with the framework of causation envisaged, or apparently envisaged, under the exclusionary abuse prohibition entrenched in the Competition Act 89 of 1998.