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BusinessTribunal rejects schools’ defense on unfair trade practice

Tribunal rejects schools’ defense on unfair trade practice

The Trade Practice Administrative Tribunal of Consumer Protection and Trade Practice Authority dropped the defense statement presented by 14 private schools which were sued for unfair trade practices and illegal collusive action.

It is to be recalled that private schools including Safari, British Academy, Eden, Ellon Academy, Ethio-Harvard, Hohet Tebebe, Vision Academy, Super International, Zagol Academy, Future Talent, Gibson Academy, Glory as well as St. Mary Schools have been charged for unfair business practice.

In that regard, these schools have been charged for allegedly registering students in violation of the time schedule that has been prescribed by a directive issued by the Addis Ababa Education Bureau. The directive stated that schools across the city are allowed to admit students only from the early weeks of June to late August of each academic year.

The statement read that these schools have even registered students prior to the announcement of their results for the academic year assuming that they have pass to the next grade.

“This has brought an impact on fair trade competition,” the charge read.

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The case processor of the Authority in its statement requests the tribunal to stop the schools from their alleged unfair trade practices and illegal collusive acts. It also asked the tribunal to penalize the schools in order of 10 percent cut from their annual revenue.

In the hearing held on Wednesday, the defendant’s defense statement was heard.

Among other things the defendants questioned the jurisdiction of the Authority to sue them. In addition, the schools through their lawyers argued that schools should not be considered as business entities.

The defendants also argued that the power to deal with criminal issues is now transferred to the Office of the Attorney General and that the tribunal has no power to preside over the case.

In turn, the tribunal ruled that the issue is not a criminal matter rather it is an administrative matter. Given this, the tribunal still has the power to treat the case.

In addition, the tribunal also dropped the defendants’ claim regarding the Authority having no jurisdiction to sue. 

Moreover, the tribunal clarified that the schools are business entities which are involved in service delivery.

Out of a list of six defense statements, the tribunal did not accept five of them and adjured the remaining defense statement for further inquiry.

Article five of the Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Proclamation, enacted four years ago, states that no trader is allowed to use its dominance over a particular business and use it improperly.  The proclamation further lists practices that can impact competitive trade practice.

Currently, there are around 1,168 pre-primary, 806 primary and 206 secondary and preparatory schools in Addis Ababa. Out of this, 1,500 are under private ownership. As of this year, close to 824,000 students is attending school in Addis Ababa.

After giving a ruling on the defense statements, the tribunal adjured the case to September to September 18, 2017 for oral litigation.

By Birhanu Fikade

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