South Africa’s six major supermarkets and wholesale retailers have been found not guilty of price fixing or abusing their buying power.

Supermarkets Pick n Pay, Shoprite, Woolworths Holdings and Spar, plus wholesale retailers Massmart Holdings and Metcash were cleared yesterday (27 January) by South Africa’s Competition Commission. 

Insufficient evidence was found to show abuse of buying power or contravention of rules on category management and information exchange. The Commission had investigated the high and rising prices of key staple foods such as poultry, bread, milk and canned fish.

Nevertheless, the commission also urged supermarkets to facilitate smaller suppliers by changing procurement policies and proactively disclosing information on entry requirements.

Dennis Cope, Pick n Pay’s CFO, said: “The Competition Commission has done a very thorough review of the retail industry and we will continue to work very closely with them on any outstanding issues.”

The regulator has stated it would probe long-term exclusive lease agreements, which it felt could be anti-competitive.

The agreements are said to have enabled larger supermarkets to retain market power while smaller retailers are excluded from malls in certain markets. If a constructive solution to this could not be found, the Commission may consider prosecution.