Agencies Urged To Be Assertive In Pursuing Enforcement Of Competition Law

By Zarul Effendi Razali

KUALA LUMPUR, March 7 (Bernama) -- Competition agencies should be assertive in pursuing the enforcement of the competition law to ensure that the public's and consumer's welfare are well-protected.

Principal Economic Advisor to the Portuguese Competition Authority Board, Dr Joao Eduardo Gata, said the competition agencies should be aware about how different markets worked, monitor those that were particularly relevant for the economy on a regular basis and complement the smart monitoring effort with advocacy efforts.

He said the advocacy efforts would only be successful if the firms, the business community and the receiving ends of the cycle understood that competition law would be enforced.

"You (competition agencies) need to inform them that you will be adamant in enforcing the competition law so that they will react to that by changing the behaviour if needed and will not engage in illegal practices," he told Bernama on the sidelines of the Malaysia Competition Conference 2017 here today.

He said the awareness programme in educating the public and firms on the competition policy was never an ending process and needed to be done continuously to ensure that they fully understood the law.

"You have to keep 'selling' the benefits of the competition law, both to businesses and non-businesses, specially the small and medium enterprises because they don't have enough resources to have in-house counselling regarding this policy.

"They need to understand how the competition policy can benefit them while they operate in the market," he said.

He said some companies were not even aware about the types of conduct which were legal or illegal under the competition law.

"These companies obviously engage in practices without knowing that they are illegal because they are beneficial to them," he said.

For consumers, he said, the advocacy efforts were probably more difficult due to the size of current consumers.

"We have millions of them. However, we can still reach out to them through the media, websites and a series of roadshows," he said.

He said competition agencies should showcase the successes of their actions taken to dismantle the cartels to the public and use them to convey the benefits of the competition policy.

"If possible, even by giving consumers the quantifiable idea on how much they have gained by the dismantling of these cartels by the competition agencies," he said.

Under the competition law, 'cartel' refers to a group of similar, independent companies which join together to fix prices, limit production or share markets or customers between them.

Through liberalisation and privatisation processes since late 80s, the economy has become more competitive with firms working harder to compete among each other.

However, he said, some sectors still needed to improve their competition levels, not only for the benefit of the consumers, but also themselves and customers.

"When you have a market that is more competitive, those firms that participate, engage and conduct a business in more competitive market will become better and be able to compete in the international market.

"Competition in the domestic or larger markets is good for the firms because they will then will be better able to compete in the international market, especially in increasingly globalised world," he said .

Firms that are more sophisticated and more innovative in the international market could guarantee their survival and further expansion, he said.