Human Behavior

Competition bill is weakening, watchdog says

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 October, 2011, 12:00am

The Consumer Council said yesterday it was disappointed that the government had watered down the competition bill, warning that it should not be weakened further.

Thomas Cheng Kin-hon, chairman of the council's working group on the competition bill, said that it was especially bad that the government removed the right of individuals to file lawsuits complaining of anti-competitive behaviour. 'The right for private legal actions was an important part, to protect the rights of consumers and of small and medium enterprises,' Cheng said.

'We believe there should be dual ways to implement the law, to sufficiently curb anti-competitive behaviour - taking away the right to private lawsuits is removing one.'

In the original draft, individuals and companies could either lodge anti-competitive complaints with the proposed competition commission - which will transfer cases to the future competition tribunal - or take their case to the tribunal directly. The revision the government announced last week - amid overwhelming concerns from the business sector - means all cases would have to go through the commission.

The bill aims to outlaw anti-competitive agreements such as price fixing, bid rigging and market sharing.

The business sector, including small and medium-sized companies, was critical of the original bill.

Cheng said any further opposition from the business sector would be unjustified. 'Any further concession made will greatly diminish the effectiveness of the future law,' he said, and called on the government to consider restoring the right to private lawsuits after the bill became law.

'The government should stage a comprehensive review of the future law about five years after it is enacted, after the commission has completed a few cases,' he said.

Greg So Kam-leung, Hong Kong's secretary for commerce and economic development, will explain the proposed concessions to the Legislative Council committee scrutinising the bill today.