GRAB AC­TU­ALLY ISN’T A MO­NOP­OLY – HERE’S WHY

A fair and sus­tain­able point-to-point trans­port in­dus­try is more about reg­u­la­tion than com­pe­ti­tion.

Torque (Singapore) - - FRONT PAGE -

TTHE quag­mire which the Com­pe­ti­tion and Con­sumer Com­mis­sion of Sin­ga­pore (CCCS) has found it­self in with re­gards to ride-hail­ing firm Grab’s takeover of ri­val Uber’s South-east Asian busi­ness is not of its own do­ing.

For the past six months, the CCCS has been try­ing – with lim­ited suc­cess – to get Grab to undo the “less­en­ing of com­pe­ti­tion” which its ac­qui­si­tion of Uber’s re­gional op­er­a­tions has ap­par­ently given rise to.

The is­sue, re­ally, is not about whether such a move has led to less com­pe­ti­tion. The an­swer to that is pretty ob­vi­ous. Any drop-out of a com­peti­tor will lead to less com­pe­ti­tion.

The is­sue is whether it has led to a mo­nop­o­lis­tic sit­u­a­tion. The an­swer to that is also pretty ob­vi­ous. It has not. Grab is still fac­ing a fair amount of com­pe­ti­tion from taxi op­er­a­tors and an ever in­creas­ing num­ber of wannabe hail­ing apps. One would think the very na­ture of com­pe­ti­tion is its per­pet­ual flux. Play­ers come and play­ers go. As long as there is no mo­nop­oly, should the CCCS be con­cerned?

The com­mis­sion, how­ever, is find­ing it­self in murky wa­ters which should not have been there in the first place. That is, if Sin­ga­pore had recog­nised Uber and Grab for what they were at the very start.

They are es­sen­tially taxi com­pa­nies. (Of course, Grab is now try­ing to po­si­tion it­self in var­i­ous other in­dus­tries, but when it ar­rived here along with Uber in 2013, it was a taxi com­pany.) And taxi com­pa­nies should be reg­u­lated like taxi com­pa­nies. Af­ter five years, the Land Trans­port Author­ity (LTA) is finally recog­nis­ing that, and has put in place a reg­u­la­tory frame­work for ride-hail­ing firms. It may be too lit­tle, too late. Soon af­ter Grab and Uber ar­rived here, The Straits Times asked the LTA why they did not have to fol­low reg­u­la­tions

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