Business lobby wants competition law ditched

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 July, 2011, 12:00am


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An alliance of 48 trade associations and a group of small and medium-sized enterprises has called on the government to scrap a proposed competition law, which they say is ambiguous.

Benny Kong Bing-to, spokesman for the Joint Committee of Business Federations and Chambers of Commerce, said: 'The two conduct rules in the draft bill are unclear, and legislators are turning their responsibilities over to a competition commission, which we hardly know anything about.'

The government said that the bill had to have flexibility to allow it to deal with different cases.

'Such an approach allows the competition authorities to enforce the law having regard to the facts of each case, the dynamic changes in market circumstances and the relevant case law in overseas jurisdictions,' said a spokesman for the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau.

'Given the variety of commercial practices in different shapes and forms, it would be difficult to provide for all scenarios and every detail in the law on what is prohibited and what is not.'

Steven Kwok Chun-pong, president of the Hong Kong Small and Medium Enterprises Association, echoed criticisms that the bill was too vague. He said: 'What is the definition of 'market'? What extent of the market share should my company hold before being exposed to the risk of prosecution?'

The draft bill contains two legally non-binding conduct rules, which cover concerted practices and abuse of market power.

A competition commission to be set up would be responsible for drafting detailed guidelines and defining key terms and illegal conduct.

The criticisms were rejected by Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah.

'The government has done two consultations on the bill and [taken] years to publish a report,' he said.

'There are a lot of laws in Hong Kong that are passed in principle. It is impossible to list every single detail before passing it. The race discrimination bill was passed before the specifics were ironed out,' said Tong.

Kong's committee also accused pan-democrats of double standards over legislation.

'Why did the pan-democrats oppose the by-election ban proposal but are supporting the competition bill when it's similarly being pushed through quickly? Are their industry's interests at stake?'

Kong, who has 20 years of legal experience, says the passing of the bill would bring good business for lawyers.

Tong said that the proposed laws are no different to those that already operate in 120 countries.