The Bankers Association of Zimbabwe (BAZ) says it will continue representing local banks in the selection and utilisation of electronic systems defying a push by the Commission Tariffs Commission (CTC) to stop the association from coordinating lenders’ activities.
“We always act accordingly if there is one thing in common that is affecting all the banks. That way we can have a uniform approach,” BAZ chief executive officer Fanwell Mutogo told Business Times.
The development comes after CTC ordered BAZ to stop acting on behalf of banks.
CTC said BAZ was influencing banks to adopt a uniform position to terminate individual contracts with Paynet.
It was alleged that BAZ membership refused to make payments for the contracted Paynet service fees in United States dollar. It then suspended all banks’ operations with Paynet.
Paynet – a subsidiary of Payserv Africa, had contracts with banking institutions for the provision of electronic payment.
“After analysis, the Commission made an order aimed at preventing anti-competitive coordination and concerted actions by banks operating under BAZ that (it) should forthwith cease and desist from coordinating activities of banks in respect of their selection and utilisation of electronic payment processing systems,” CTC said.
The Commission said the conduct of collective refusal to deal with Paynet was considered in most jurisdictions as per se prohibited collusive horizontal agreements.
Refusal to deal can be a result of legitimate reasons including inter-alia non-payment, stocks shortage, disrupted supply and breach of contractual terms or commercial disputes.
“Any party, may on its own, refuse to do business with another party but concerted practices or an agreement or arrangement among competitors not to do business with suppliers or customers, may constitute illegal or anti-competitive group boycott especially where as a group of competitors collectively hold market power as is the case with the banks,” CTC said.
Paynet requested payment of fees in US$ when the country’s monetary policy made it mandatory for all local payments to be made in the local currency.
This demand for US$ payments, notwithstanding that the ZWL$ being the official currency, was the major bone of contention.
Paynet had foreign obligations to settle in US$ while banks could not pay in US$ due to the announced policy. The banks said Paynet’s demands were very unreasonable.
The Commission contends existence of an arrangement and concerted action which makes refusal to deal was anti-competitive as it was a collective position.
CTC said economic actors who are competitors should make independent decisions necessary for upholding competition in markets.