Commission imposes $110m fine on British American Tobacco, others over infractions

THE Federal Competition & Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) has imposed a $110,000,000 fine on British American Tobacco (Nigeria) Limited (BATN) and its affiliated firms for violating Nigerian laws.

The FCCPC said the companies ran afoul of its Act, the National Tobacco Control Act, and related Nigerian laws.

It imposed the sanction after concluding the investigation it initiated on August 28, 2020.

A statement by the commission on Wednesday, December 27, stated that the FCCPC subsequently obtained a court order for search and seizure, allowing an extensive investigation into the companies’ activities in Nigeria.

The investigation included forensic analysis of electronic data and other evidence/data collected during searches conducted from January 25, 2021, across various BATN locations and a service provider’s premises.

According to the statement, additional investigation, involving various processes such as proffers, hearings, sworn testimonies, and continuing analysis, uncovered multiple violations of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act (FCCPA) and other related laws.

“During the investigation and in furtherance of mutual engagements between the commission and BAT parties, BAT parties in writing sought, and the commission accepted BAT parties into cooperation under the commission’s Cooperation/Assistance Rules & Procedure, 2021 (CARP). 

“The Cooperation/Assistance Framework (CAF) provides for benefits such as possible reduced monetary penalties (Rule 4.1); waiver of the application of the Commission’s Administrative Penalties Regulations 2020 (Rule 4.2); as well as prosecutorial discretion, particularly Rules 5.1 and 5.3 (subject to compliance with Rules 3 and 5.4),” the statement said.






     

     

    The commission further noted that after reviewing all evidence, including BAT parties’ statements and conduct during their cooperation with the investigation, the investigation was concluded, with the commission and BAT parties’ mutual execution of a consent order and notice.

    The commission and the firms agreed on the following, according to the statement:

    • That BAT parties shall pay a penalty of $110,000,000 under and pursuant to Sections 155 of the FCCPA, Clause 1 of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission’s Administrative Penalties Regulations, 2020 and Clause 4.2 of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission’s Investigative Cooperation/Assistance Rules and Procedures, 2021;
    • That BAT parties shall be subject to compliance and monitoring under the supervision of the commission for a period of 24 months to ensure appropriate behavioural and business practices modification to be more consistent with compliance with prevailing competition laws/regulations and tobacco control efforts;
    • Mandatory public health and tobacco control advocacy in a manner compliant with tobacco control legislation and regulations and satisfactory to the commission as mitigation to evidence of a pattern of undermining and circumventing national tobacco control policies and regulations and
    • That BAT parties shall provide written assurances to the commission pursuant to Section 153 of the FCCPA as required.

    In exchange for BAT parties fulfilling their obligations under the Consent Order, the commission said it withdrew pending criminal charges against BATN and at least one employee for obstructing the commission by attempting to prevent execution of the search warrant and initial lack of cooperation/compliance with the investigation.

    The commission, therefore, reaffirmed its mission to foster a fair economic landscape, safeguard consumer interests, and promote national economic growth and shared prosperity in the country.

    Usman Mustapha is a solution journalist with International Centre for Investigative Reporting. You can easily reach him via: [email protected]. He tweets @UsmanMustapha_M

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