Earlier in 2011 the Competition Commission referred a complaint against ticketing services company Computicket to the Competition Tribunal. In its referral the commission alleged that Computicket contravened the Competition Act by excluding rivals from the market for outsourced ticket distribution services for entertainment events. In its investigation, the commission found that Computicket entered into long-term exclusive contracts – most for a period of three years – with theatre owners, theatre producers, promoters and festival events organisers in the entertainment industry, thereby preventing them from using any other ticketing provider. It is alleged that this excluded Computicket's rivals and thus had a harmful effect on consumers.

On September 24 2011 the Mail & Guardian reported that a ruling by the tribunal against Computicket would bring about significant changes to the ticketing industry in South Africa. In addition, Tixsa – a new entrant in the industry – has launched a new technology that it claims will offer a better way for events organisers to sell tickets and manage their box office; market, promote, and integrate with social networks; reward customers; and serve clients. This new entrant is set to shake up further the South African ticketing landscape dominated by Computicket.

The commission's referral alleged that Computicket controlled 96.6% of the South African ticketing market, and that events organisers in South Africa have not had a reliable, inexpensive alternative to Computicket because of its dominance. It is expected that Tixsa will empower events organisers to sell tickets online through their websites and mobile-optimised sites, as an alternative to Computicket.

Computicket responded to the referral by approaching the tribunal with a request to dismiss the complaint. It did so on the basis that the commission had not made out a proper legal case against it and also had not properly referred the case to the tribunal. The dismissal application was argued on October 13 2011 and the tribunal's decision is still awaited.

Computicket's response to the referral is consistent with a number of recent technical challenges to the commission: arguably imprecise formulation of complaints and particularly complaint referral.

For further information on this topic please contact Martin Versfeld at Webber Wentzel by telephone (+27 11 530 5000), fax (+27 11 530 5111) or email ([email protected]).