Tribunal to hear case against optometry rules

UPCOMING COMPETITION TRIBUNAL HEARING

Who are the parties involved?

Complaint by Ian Walter Buchanan against The Health Professions Council of South Africa and The Professional Board for Optometry

 

When will the hearing take place?

 

27 May – 10 June 2014 and 10 July 2014

 

What time will the hearing start?

 

09H00 on 27 May 2014

10H00 from 28 May onwards

 

Where will the hearing take place?

 

The dti Campus

77 Meintjies Street

Mulayo Building, (Block C)

Sunnyside, Pretoria

Tel: +27 (0) 12 394 3300

Fax: 27 (0) 12 394 0169

Website: http://www.comptrib.co.za

(Following is a guideline for journalists. The information can be used but please do not quote Nandi Mokoena)

Competition Tribunal to consider ethical rule in optometry professional

From Tuesday, 27 May, the Competition Tribunal will hear a complaint brought by Ian Buchanan, CEO of the optical firm Torga Optical, against the Health Professions Council of South Africa (“HPCSA”) and The Professional Board for Optometry (“PBO”). In his complaint Ian Buchanan alleges that the HPCSA and PBO ethical rule, specifically Rule 8, which prohibits lay ownership or investment in optometric businesses, contravenes the Competition Act. In Buchanan’s view, the rule constitutes a decision by associations of firms in a competitive relationship that has the effect of substantially preventing or lessening competition in the ophthalmic or optometric market, as prohibited by the Competition Act.

Buchanan’s complaint before the Tribunal comes after he initially lodged the same complaint with the Competition Commission. The Commission investigated his allegations and, on 5 October 2012, concluded that although Rule 8 could harm competition by raising barriers to entry or expansion in the market and by limiting innovative corporate reforms, the rule did not substantially prevent or lessen competition. The Commission informed Buchanan that it was nevertheless engaging the HPCSA on the rule. Buchanan disagreed with the Commission’s decision and subsequently referred his complaint to the Tribunal directly. Buchanan believes that deregulating the ownership of optometric businesses would “improve the bargaining power of optometric businesses with medical schemes” and “result in a more efficient industry with possibly lower pricing”. He cites the introduction of corporate ownership in pharmacies as a move which improved access of services in less developed areas.

According to the respondents, Rule 8 does not constitute an absolute bar to all forms of corporate involvement or investment in the practices of optometrists thus corporate involvement, such as the franchising model of Torga Optical, is allowed subject to compliance with the ethical rules. The respondents also allege that Buchanan’s complaint does not meet the requirements for a complaint of this nature as set out in the Competition Act. In addition, the respondents argue, given that Rule 8 is authorised by the provisions of the Health Professions Act, it can only be attacked for inconsistency with the Constitution and not for inconsistency with the Competition Act. The respondents are of the view that Buchanan’s complaint should be dismissed.

The Tribunal will hear this matter over the coming 2½ weeks and again on 10 July 2014.     

Issued By:    

Nandi Mokoena
Communications: Competition Tribunal
Cell: +27 (0) 82 399 1328
E-mail: NandisileM@live.co.za or NandiM@comptrib.co.za

On Behalf Of:

Lerato Motaung
Registrar: Competition Tribunal
Tel: (012) 394 3355
Cell: +27 (0) 82 556 3221
E-Mail: LeratoM@comptrib.co.za