In a recent revelation by Babatunde Irukera, the Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), British American Tobacco Nigeria Limited (BAT) has been penalized with a substantial fine of $110 million for engaging in conduct deemed abusive as a dominant player in the market.
In an interview with ARISE NEWS on Thursday, Irukera explained that the fine was a result of anti-competitive behavior, violations of prevailing tobacco controls, and public health measures by BAT and its affiliates. The investigation, initiated in 2020, uncovered a range of activities that were inconsistent with fair market practices.
Irukera highlighted instances where BAT abused its dominant position, including attempts to prevent the market entry of competitors’ products and collaboration with certain elements to influence government institutions regarding the characterization and taxation of competing devices or products. He further pointed out the use of trade marketing manuals to reward retailers promoting BAT products over competitors, penalizing those providing a fair platform.
One significant aspect of the enforcement action was the company’s decision to follow an administrative route rather than face judicial prosecution. This cooperation allowed BAT to benefit from a reduced penalty, with the fine settling at $110 million.
Explaining the process, Irukera stated, “Like most plea bargain regimes, when you save a regulator or a prosecutor or an investigator the time of having to go through the whole hog and prosecute a case, there are some benefits that come for that. It could be a reduced penalty, it could be a waiver of prosecution of certain offenses or certain charges or certain counts depending on what the circumstances are.”
The FCCPC boss emphasized that the high penalties were crucial for deterring malfeasance, ensuring divestment of ill-gotten gains, and signaling to potential wrongdoers that engaging in such conduct would have severe consequences. He also noted that these fines align with global standards and serve to protect consumers and create a fair and competitive market environment.
The withdrawal of some charges based on a mutual understanding between BAT and the regulatory body demonstrated a cooperative effort to address the issues at hand. The FCCPC aims to use this case as an example of the consequences that await businesses engaging in anti-competitive behavior and market distortions.