Class action looms against bread cartel members

Many commentators have said the heavy fines the Competition Commission levelled against members of the bread cartel didn’t benefit consumers who directly suffered as a result of unlawful price fixing in December 2006.

Now the Children’s Resource Centre, Black Sash, Cosatu, the National Consumer Forum and five individual consumers are taking on Pioneer Foods, Tiger Consumer Brands and Premier Foods to seek redress. Charles Abrahams of Abrahams Kiewitz Attorneys said the action is the first of its kind to seek actual damages for the victims, and on such a large scale.

“Our class action is initially aimed at representing the millions of bread consumers in the Western Cape, but we intend to extend it nationally as well. Should we be successful, we would like to set up a trust that would benefit consumers,” he explained.

In a separate class action, a group of small, independent bread distributors – including the original whistle-blower, Imraahn Ismail-Mukaddam – are seeking compensation on behalf of distributors in the Western Cape. The applicants believe the companies got off too lightly and their collusive activities impacted heavily on vulnerable members of society.
 
Cosatu Western Cape regional organiser Mike Louw said it’s difficult to quantify the damages they’re seeking. “We first need to take a good look at the companies’ records and results,” Louw explained. “We expect it to run into many millions of rand.”