Tribunal dismisses private bus company’s application for interim interdict against PRASA
The Competition Tribunal has dismissed an interim relief application by Africa People Mover (APM), whereby the privately-owned commercial bus company sought to retain its access to one of Africa’s biggest passenger railway stations, Johannesburg Park Station.
Evidence was led during the hearing that APM owes the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) a significant amount of money, after it defaulted on its payments to the state-owned entity for use of the Park Station facilities.
The Tribunal has dismissed APM’s application with costs, including the costs of two counsel. The reasons for the Tribunal’s decision will be issued in due course.
APM had asked the Tribunal for an interim relief order to interdict and restrain PRASA from: (i) preventing buses operated by APM from entering Park Station and from loading or off-loading passengers; and/or (ii) engaging in exclusionary behaviour as contemplated in section 8(c) of the Competition Act, including but not limited to engagement in a “margin squeeze”.
APM, as an emerging bus operator, argued that it could not afford to pay the amounts charged by PRASA for accessing the Park Station terminal, the only bus terminal in Johannesburg where it can legally load and off-load passengers for inter-city travel. It argued that PRASA was failing in its mandate as a public entity to ensure that its facilities were accessible to all bus operators.
PRASA opposed the interim relief application. In brief, it argued that: (i) “APM has flagrantly breached the access agreement that it freely concluded”; (ii) “the business relationship between the parties has clearly broken down”; and (iii) “there is no evidence that PRASA’s conduct is anything other than rational business behaviour, as opposed to an abuse of dominance as alleged by APM”.
It argued, among others, that APM continually breached the access agreement shortly after the parties had concluded it, by failing and/or refusing to pay the access fees it was obligated to pay.
PRASA had also argued that the matter was a contractual dispute and not a matter for competition law adjudication.
Gillian de Gouveia
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