Level playing field vital for e-commerce businesses, says CCS chief

SINGAPORE - A "level playing field" in the e-commerce space is vital for businesses looking to expand in Singapore or overseas, said Mr Toh Han Li, chief executive of Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS).

This is necessary as anti-competition practices in the online or offline market may "stifle innovation and the entry and expansion of new businesses".

Mr Toh noted, for instance, that third-party taxi booking app Easy Taxi had recently wound up operations here due to "highly-funded competition and market dynamics".

"CCS will be monitoring market developments closely to safeguard the healthy growth of the market," he said. "We will also learn from the experience of other countries in how they deal with the opportunities and challenges presented by e-commerce, including how competition authorities have dealt with such cases."

Mr Toh was speaking at the CCS E-commerce Seminar at the URA Centre on Wednesday, which was attended by more than 150 participants across various business sectors.

He added that the idea of a level e-commerce playing field should be expanded across national boundaries and "be extended to the Asean Economic Community and the vision of a single market integration".

Singapore's online retail market is expected to hit S$4.4 billion this year - four times the size of the market in 2010.

At the seminar, CCS also unveiled key findings from a recent research report, which concluded that the growing role of e-commerce "does not necessarily call for a more or less interventionist approach by competition authorities", given the dynamic nature of these markets.

"Interventions should be targeted and made on a case-by-case basis, balancing potential competition concerns with efficiency benefits and the risk of creating market distortions," said the study.

CCS will be embarking on a new joint study with the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) to further examine the impact of e-commerce on the postal and logistics market in Singapore.

tsjwoo@sph.com.sg