ISLAMABAD: The Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) has seized the record of the offices of chairman and vice-chairman of the All Pakistan Cement Manufacturers Association (APCMA) during a raid in Karachi.
According to officials, the CCP has exercised its powers under Section 34 of the Competition Act 2010 as part of an inquiry launched in May this year to investigate possible anti-competitive activities by the cement manufacturers.
Two different teams entered and searched the offices of the chairman and vice chairman of APCMA-Karachi and impounded the relevant record.
The inquiry in the cement sector was started based on the information gathered through various media reports, and concerns and complaints expressed regarding a concurrent increase in cement prices, particularly during the month of April 2020.
The reports indicated that an increase ranging between Rs45 – Rs55 per cement bag was apparently collectively decided in a meeting of the cement manufacturers held under the umbrella of APCMA.
On 24th September 2020, the CCP had also conducted search and inspection of the APCMA main office as well as the office of the senior vice chairman of APCMA’s Executive Committee (a senior employee of a major cement company in Lahore).
The impounded record, including Whatsapp messages and emails, warranted conducting search and inspection in the south zone as well for obtaining evidence relating to anticompetitive practices.
The evidence in Lahore suggested the possibility of a cartel/collusive arrangement between the cement manufacturers.
It is pertinent to mention that the cement sector has a history of collusive activities and they have been penalized in the past to an amount of collectively more than Rs6.3 billion on account of forming a cartel and involvement in the prohibited agreements in violation of Section 04 of the Act.
In 2012, the commission again initiated enquiry against cement companies, however, the same could not be proceeded and concluded due to a stay order granted to cement companies by the Lahore High Court. The current enquiry was initiated in 2020.