Com­mis­sion set to show its teeth

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By WILLA WU in Hong Kong willa@chi­nadai­

Hong Kong’s Com­pe­ti­tion Com­mis­sion is ready to bring its first few cases to lo­cal court in early 2017, the com­mis­sion head re­vealed on Wed­nes­day.

It would mark the first round of con­crete legal ac­tions taken in the city to boost mar­ket com­pe­ti­tion af­ter the Com­pe­ti­tion Or­di­nance, or Hong Kong’s an­titrust law, took ef­fect a year ago.

The com­mis­sion de­clined to dis­close the de­tail of the cases citing legal rea­sons.

Re­view­ing the com­mis­sion’s work in the past year, Chair­per­son Anna Wu Hung-yuk said some cases re­ceived in 2015-16 were with “sub­stan­tial” ev­i­dence that could be pro­ceeded with in the Com­pe­ti­tion Tri­bunal.

Wu added that the com­mis­sion plans to deal with two to three law­suits on a yearly ba­sis start­ing in 2017. She em­pha­sized that the han­dling of two to three law­suits was an “in­ten­sive” job as each case usu­ally in­volves four to five par­ties.

The Com­pe­ti­tion Com­mis­sion is an in­de­pen­dent statu­tory body tasked to over­see com­pe­ti­tion-ori­ented con­duct in the mar­ket. Wed­nes­day marks the first an­niver­sary of the Com­pe­ti­tion Or­di­nance’s im­ple­men­ta­tion.

The com­mis­sion has re­ceived some 1,900 com­plaints and in­quiries. Among them, 1,100 con­cerned vi­o­la­tion of the First Con­duct Rule un­der the or­di­nance, which pro­hibits anti-com­pe­ti­tion con­ducts such as bid-rig­ging, re­sale price main­te­nance and ex­change of in­for­ma­tion.

More­over, in a bolder step the com­mis­sion said it will work to open com­pe­ti­tion for the city’s auto-fuel mar­ket that has long been op­er­at­ing un­der an oli­gop­oly. It will re­lease a study on the is­sue early next year, ac­cord­ing to the com­mis­sion.

The study will not only fo­cus on the prices, but also look at the mar­ket struc­ture and iden­tify op­por­tu­ni­ties to make the mar­ket more com­pet­i­tive, ac­cord­ing to the com­mis­sion.

Mean­while, Ra­sul Butt, the com­mis­sion’s se­nior ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, noted that around 130 of the to­tal 1,900 com­plaints and in­quiries needed fur­ther as­sess­ment. They mainly came from in­dus­tries in­clud­ing prop­erty and prop­erty man­age­ment, pro­fes­sional and tech­ni­cal ser­vices, and trans­port, lo­gis­tics and stor­age.

There was a clear con­cen­tra­tion on bid-rig­ging among all com­plaints and in­quiries. Thus, the com­mis­sion is pri­or­i­tiz­ing the han­dling of bid-rig­ging on its work agenda, Butt said.

Also at the brief­ing, the com­mis­sion’s Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Rose Webb told China Daily that she ex­pects to ex­pand the cur­rent 25-strong team to bet­ter han­dle the com­plaints and in­quires.

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