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Crime & Punishment of Tuesday, 7 September 2004

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Court Rules Against Toyota Ghana

An Accra high court has ruled that even though Toyota Ghana Company has a monopoly in the importation of Toyota vehicles from the manufacture in Japan, it cannot prevent other companies from importing brand-new Toyota vehicles from other sources. The court, presided over by Mrs. Justice Cecilia H. Sowah said the law of Ghana allowed parallel imports.

The judge gave this ruling in a libel action brought against Toyota Ghana by Smice International Limited and Sterling Automative Company, dealers in motor vehicles and spare parts. The libel suit followed a series of newspaper publications by Toyota Ghana alleging among others that the two companies had dealt in the gray importation of brand new Toyota vehicles.

The publication said the gray importation Toyota vehicles sold by Sterling Automative and Smice International were not compatible with the Ghanaian market specifications and more disturbingly do not come with proper after sales support and warranty. The court said from the cross examination, Toyota Ghana were quite ignorant of the operations of the two companies and therefore had no factual basis to state emphatically in the publications that vehicles sold by them do not come with proper after sales service and warranty.

?I find on the totality of the evidence that the primary motive which inspired the defendant to make the publication was to discredit plaintiffs who they saw as rival competitors. I find that the publication was malicious and libelous of both plaintiff and constituted an act of unfair competition,? the judge said. The court also awarded general damages of ?300million and a cost of ?20million against Toyota Ghana Company.