Bread class action bid falters

2011-08-29 14:32

The Western Cape High Court has refused leave for an appeal against a ruling preventing a class action lawsuit against the country’s three major bread producers.

Acting Judge Francois van Zyl said the importance of the issue did not justify granting leave to appeal.

Pioneer Foods, Premier Foods and Tiger Consumer Brands were recently fined by the Competition Tribunal for their involvement in bread price-fixing.

In order to launch a class action lawsuit, the parties seeking redress had to obtain “certification of a class action” from the high court.

The initial application for certification was brought by five individuals, as well as the civic organisations, The Children’s Resource Centre Trust, the Black Sash Trust, the Congress of SA Trade Unions and the National Consumer Forum.

To obtain certification, the aggrieved parties had to define the class of people they wished to represent, and the periods in which they had been adversely affected by the price-fixing.

In the initial application for certification, before Acting Judge Francois van Zyl, senior counsel Geoff Budlender said there were two classes to be certified – a broad group of consumers adversely affected by the illegal price-fixing, and a smaller group whose rights in terms of the Constitution had been infringed.

The initial application was dismissed on the ground that the aggrieved parties had failed to make out a case for a sufficiently identifiable class of persons.

The aggrieved parties were also required to indicate, in papers before court, the periods when the prohibited price-fixing had happened, but had not done so.

In today’s judgment, Van Zyl said the main requirement for granting an application for leave to appeal was that there had to be a reasonable prospect of success on appeal.

He agreed with Budlender that the application was of substantial public importance. However, this was not the only requirement for leave to appeal to be granted.

If the decision to refuse class action certification was wrong, leave to appeal could be granted by way of a petition to the Supreme Court of Appeal, he said.

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