The infringement of various statutes has led the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) to impose a hefty $110 million fine on British American Tobacco Nigeria Limited (BATN) along with its associated entities. The said subsidiaries include British American Tobacco Marketing (Nigeria) Limited (BATMN), British American Tobacco Plc, and British American Tobacco (Holdings) Limited. This announcement was made in an official statement released by the FCCPC on Wednesday. Referring to the corporations as BAT Parties, the commission stated that they breached multiple laws, including the FCCPC Act and the National Tobacco Control Act.
After commencing the investigation on August 28, 2020, the commission stated that it concluded its final settlement with the companies by late 2023. Yet, no specific infringements attributed to British American Tobacco Nigeria Limited and its related firms were mentioned by FCCPC. The commission had launched the inquiry due to reliable information, warranting a more comprehensive exploration into the companies’ activities. After convincing the federal high court that there were legitimate grounds and enough proof to employ advanced investigative measures, FCCPC announced the court’s issuance of an Order and Search and Seizure Warrant.
A substantial amount of evidence was gathered from various sources.
According to the statement, on January 25, 2021, the commission carried out synchronised searches and seizures at various BAT Parties establishments and a service provider’s premises as part of its ongoing efforts in compliance with the Order and Warrant. During the investigation, the commission acquired a substantial amount of evidence through the examination of electronic communications and various information sources. This evidence was gathered not only during the search but also from other credible sources before and after the search took place.
Further examination, which encompasses offers, hearings, records of sworn statements, and ongoing scrutiny of proof, confirmed and upheld several breaches of the FCCPA and other legislations. Throughout the investigation and in pursuit of collaborative endeavours between the Commission and BAT Parties, BAT Parties formally requested and were granted participation in cooperation with the commission under its Cooperation/Assistance Rules. The Cooperation/Assistance Framework (CAF) offers several advantages, including the potential for decreased financial penalties (Rule 4.1), exemption from the Commission’s Administrative Penalties Regulations 2020 (Rule 4.2), and the availability of prosecutorial discretion, specifically Rules 5.1 and 5.3 on the condition of adhering to Rules 3 and 5.4.
BAT Parties will undergo a strict 24-month monitoring period.
Upon carefully reviewing the facts, evidence, and infractions regarding the matter, the commission has resolved by entering into a mutually agreed consent order and notice with the BAT parties, effectively bringing the investigation to a close. The commission has stated that in accordance with Sections 155 of the FCCPA, Clause 11 of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission’s Administrative Penalties Regulations, 2020, and Clause 4.2 of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commissions Investigative Cooperation/Assistance Rules and Procedures, 2021, parties associated with BAT are required to pay a substantial penalty of $110,000,000 (One Hundred and Ten Million Dollars).
In addition, the directive also requires the BAT Parties to undergo a strict 24-month monitoring period, during which their business practices must be altered to align with prevailing competition laws and regulations and tobacco control initiatives. To ensure compliance and prevent any undermining of national policies, the companies will be obligated to actively engage in mandatory public health and tobacco control advocacy in accordance with legislation and regulations. In adherence to Section 153 of the FCCPA, they must provide the Commission with Written Assurances, as stated by the FCCPC.
All obligations will be fulfilled while safeguarding consumers’ welfare.
Lastly, the FCCPC has stated that by fulfilling their duties as outlined in the Consent Order, BAT Parties had the pending criminal charges against BATN and at least one employee dropped. These charges were related to allegations of obstructing the commission by trying to impede the execution of a search warrant and initially showing resistance in cooperating with the investigation. The commission affirmed its unwavering dedication towards fulfilling its duty of fostering and guaranteeing equitable exchange environments while safeguarding the rights and welfare of consumers.