Big developers attack 'unfair' competition bill

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 February, 2012, 12:00am


Big property developers have attacked as unfair a proposal to exempt most statutory bodies, such as the Housing Authority, from the competition law.

The government wants to exempt almost all of the city's 575 statutory bodies from the scope of the competition bill. These include the Housing Authority, Housing Society, Urban Renewal Authority and Trade Development Council.

Louis Loong Hon-biu, association secretary general of the Real Estate Developers Association of Hong Kong, said yesterday: 'More than half of Hong Kong's population lives in flats provided by the Housing Authority, 30 per cent of them in public housing estates and a further 20 per cent in Home Ownership Scheme flats. To exempt a body which has such a big influence on the market will run against the original purpose of the bill.'

Loong, speaking outside Legco, which held a meeting on the bill, said: 'Only six statutory bodies are covered by the competition bill. The practice does not fall in line with international standards.

'No such [blanket] exemption can be found in the European Union, the United Kingdom or on the mainland.'

Most countries introduced clauses to exempt bodies from anti-competition regulations when they were performing public duties, but they did not make an exemption list of the sort proposed by the government, which guaranteed those included would have blanket exemption, Loong said.

He said there was evidence that even the Housing Authority could discourage competition. The Competition Policy Advisory Group, a government-established body to promote competition, received a complaint in 1999 that the authority charged some mobile network operators more than the others when they installed radio antennae and base stations in public housing estates. The authority synchronised the fees for all operators a year later.

But in a Legislative Council committee yesterday, most chambers and associations for small- and medium-sized companies voiced support for exempting the Trade Development Council from the bill. They said the council charged them lower-than-market prices for services, which helped their growth.

Ricky Lam Chi-keung, chairman of the HK Jewellery Manufacturers' Association, said: 'The TDC charged us HK$2,000 per square metre, while another company charged us HK$6,000.' Their support ran against that of exhibition organisers, which claimed that TDC monopolised the industry and should be regulated.

Spenser Au, of Global Sources, said: 'More competition means cheaper prices.'