Government adviser rejects all but one competition complaint

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 December, 2009, 12:00am

A complaint against an internet auction service provider for abusing a dominant market position has been ruled not substantiated, because of insufficient evidence, according to the latest report by the Competition Policy Advisory Group.

The group, chaired by the financial secretary, reviews competition issues and advises government departments. Published yesterday, the annual report revealed seven cases the group received over a year in 2008-09, and outlined the follow-up actions taken.

One of the complaints was filed in March by a trade association against an unnamed internet auction service provider, accusing it of abusing a dominant market position by restricting sellers from displaying their contact information on the website. The association alleged the policies were detrimental to trade.

The group quoted the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer, which conducted the investigation, as saying that although the service provider might have been in a dominant position, it was not abusing its market power.

It was on this basis that the group ruled the complaint unsubstantiated - though it added that such behaviour might violate the proposed competition law.

The only complaint ruled substantiated was filed by the Hong Kong Shippers' Council early last year, after the Container Depot and Repairer Association announced that its members would impose a uniform depot-management fee effective from March 16 last year. The HK$10 was charged to truckers or shippers picking up or dropping off empty containers at depots.

The group ruled that the container association's members had practised price fixing. 'The Transport and Housing Bureau has written to [the container association] to inform them that the collective act of its members to impose [the fee] was anti-competitive, and urged them to cancel the charge,' the report said.

It said the bureau had also written to the Hong Kong Liner Shipping Association to urge it to clarify with its depot agents the charges they would impose.

Sunny Ho Lap-kee, executive director of the shippers' council, welcomed the advice and said that less than one-third of depots had not yet cancelled the fee.

A case still under investigation alleges anti-competitive conduct related to the service-termination practices of a pay-television licensee. 'The government is working at full steam towards the introduction of the Competition Bill,' a government spokesman said, adding that the target was to introduce it to the legislature this legislative year.