Learning from past decisions in South Africa

January, 2017

Africa-Column

Learning from past decisions in South Africa – By Phil Alves and Fatima Fiandeiro (Genesis Analytics)[1]

Competition authorities the world over regularly set out to review and assess their own performance. In South Africa, this work has focused heavily on the consumer welfare benefits of cartel prosecution. The South African competition authorities have dedicated relatively few resources to learning from previous investigations in an effort to improve decision-making, whereas such review activity is common in jurisdictions across Europe, North America, and Australasia.

Why spend precious time and (public) money trying to learn from the past? The simple answer is that it saves time and resources in the future by facilitating better decisions. Most of the decisions that competition authorities are required to make are subject to uncertainty, and thus rely on hypotheses or theories about future market dynamics and firm behaviour. Learning from the past can refine these hypotheses by producing better insights into the competitive dynamics of different industries.

This learning process should improve the efficiency and quality of decision-making over time, be it in merger investigations, identifying appropriate abuse of dominance remedies, or merely identifying where and how competition law intervention can generate the biggest impacts. This would seem to be an important priority given what is expected of competition policy in developing countries—developme…

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