5 August 2017

Ethiopia: Tribunal Rules Against 14 Private Schools

The Trade Practices & Consumer Protection Authority's Tribunal ruled that the Authority has the jurisdiction to review the cases of 12 private schools, which were accused of committing an anti-competition act, by rejecting their preliminary objections.

The Authority lodged its claim to the tribunal accusing 14 private schools including the British International School, Gibson Youth Academy and Harvard Academy on April 5, 2017.

In its initial claim, the Authority asserted that the schools are registering new students throughout the year, while the regulation stipulates that registration shall be conducted only in July and August.

These schools registered students from 2013 to 2015 taking registration fees and limiting the choices of consumers by making underhanded agreements among themselves, according to the Authority's claim. As a penalty, the Authority requested the Tribunal to impose a 10pc fine to each school's annual revenue.

As a preliminary objection to the claim lodged against them, on April 28, 2017, 12 of them responded to the tribunal while two, namely Glory School and Zagole Education Plc, did not bring any preliminary objections.

The schools' objection has six counts, one questioning the jurisdiction of the authority, reasoning the Federal Attorney General is the only institution which can sue and only the Federal Police Commission can investigate cases.

They also claimed that the Tribunal cannot review their case, mentioning that providing educational service is not considered as a business. The other claim from the schools was objecting to the continuation of the case citing that they already received a warning from the Authority and the Addis Ababa Education Bureau.

Furthermore, the schools pleaded that the Authority's claim should be rejected as it does not clearly indicate where and when the alleged accusation happened.

Finally, they objected to the accusation attributing the directive issued in 2015, which was set after the time when they were accused of doing the act.

But on June 2, 2017, the Tribunal rejected the objections of the defendants, mentioning the Authority has full entitlement to review the case as the Office of the Attorney General takes over only criminal cases, not administrative issues.

It also stated that the directive of the Ministry of Trade (MoT) says that schools are considered as businesses since they operate with a business license. For the schools' claim of double jeopardy, the Tribunal stated that it only works for criminal matters.

The Tribunal also waived the preliminary objection of the schools, which reads the alleged acts were done before the issuance of the directive, reasoning it should be handled during factual litigation not with a preliminary objection.

The Tribunal adjourned the case to September 18, 2017, for oral litigation.


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