The Competition Tribunal has confirmed a settlement agreement between the Law Society of the Northern Provinces and the Competition Commission, in which the law society agrees to rescind some of its professional rules and guidelines that were found to be anti-competitive, says a statement from the society.

The settlement comes after a complaint was referred to the commission by a law firm in May 2009. It had been alleged that some of the law society’s rules, guidelines and professional rulings were in contravention of the Competition Act.

The law society had earlier unsuccessfully applied to the commission for an exemption in relation to its rules. The commission had found that some of the rules had an adverse effect on competition and were not reasonably required to maintain professional standards or the ordinary function of the profession.

The commission found that the rules in question were too restrictive and overbroad, particularly those relating to professional fees, reserved work, organisational forms and multidisciplinary practices, marketing and advertising.

The commission further found that the rules constituted price fixing and market allocation, alternatively the fixing of trading conditions.

The law society subsequently admitted that the rules could be construed as contravening the Competition Act and agreed to repeal the contravening rules and guidelines. The commission has not sought a penalty in this matter.

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