Competition body to be able to drop cases

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 July, 2006, 12:00am

The future commission to review anti-competitive practices will be given discretionary powers to disregard complaints that fail to make a prima facie case, in a measure billed as a safeguard against abuse of the proposed system.

A source familiar with the subject said yesterday the commission, which is to enjoy statutory powers, will not be obliged to take up every complaint filed against alleged anti-competitive measures by businesses. 'This will hopefully avoid any unnecessary nuisance that may be generated against businesses,' the source said.

Some business representatives, including Liberal Party chairman James Tien Pei-chun, have raised concerns about a general competition policy, saying it would undermine the business environment and scuttle development of small and medium-sized firms. Political parties such as the Democrats and Civic Party supported the move.

The Competition Policy Advisory Group, headed by Financial Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen, is to submit a report to the Legislative Council's economic services panel today for discussion on July 19.

Written by the Competition Policy Review Committee, headed by businessman Christopher Cheng Wai-chee, the report seeks to launch a major revamp of the government's competition policy, which has in the past only targeted antitrust practices in specific sectors such as telecommunications.

Mr Cheng's committee proposed an overall competition policy and the establishment of a statutory authority to investigate suspected anti-competitive practices in the business sector.

At the panel's July 19 meeting, officials will brief lawmakers on the plan to consult the public on the policy change. One issue the public will be asked to consider is whether the commission should have the power to hand down sanctions, said the source. Alternatively, an independent tribunal will be set up to decide on sanctions after taking cases referred by the commission.

Stressing that the government had yet to formulate a view, the source said: 'Our aim is to come up with a system that is effective and efficient.'