THE task bestowed upon the Competition Commission to seek out enterprises who engage in anti-competitive practices and come up with market review proposals that can possibly change government legislation seems like an arduous feat. And it is definitely not an enviable position to be in.
The Competition Commission was established to oversee the implementation of the Competition Act 2010. While the Act only comes to force Jan 1 next year, the remaining months of this year will see the commission with its hands full setting up guidelines that will be used as the meat for a very skeletal Act. Industry players have been quick to note that the commission is slightly heavy on the legal side and requires a fairer share of business savvy appointees possibly retired businessmen (so there will be no conflict of interests) who can be instrumental in understanding the workings and complications of running a business. To date, a chairperson and five individuals from the private sector have been named as commissioners with four government appointees expected to be announced soon.
While it is hard to anticipate the number of cases that will be brought to the commission’s attention as soon as the Act is enforced, industry players agree that the first case taken up by the commission will set the tone for its subsequent cases and how it will be perceived by the public. In other words, a landmark case will help define the power, independence and level of justice undertaken by the commission and ascertain its credibility.
In this case, we can take a leaf of our neighbouring country Singapore’s book.
It was previously reported that the Competition Commission of Singapore had issued an infringement decision on November 2009 against 16 coach operators and their trade association for fixing the price of bus services from Singapore to Malaysia and southern Thailand. The decision was the first against a price-fixing cartel since the country’s Competition Act was enacted but was the second decision released by their commission.
The commission imposed financial penalties on all the parties involved with the total amounting to S$1.7mil, sending a strong signal to industry players that the commission was serious about the Act’s implementation.
Therefore, the world or at least Malaysia will be watching closely to see the outcome of the first infringement case decided by our local commission and whether transgressions reported against large companies, possibly those that have been protected under industrial policies or have political ties, will be acted upon swiftly and independently.
One hopes that the two Acts don’t suffer the same fate as many others which have been passed before great on paper but poor on execution.