Changes to Competition Act passed

The CCS has the power to review any merger which may result in a substantial lessening of competition here. In cases where information about a merger is not in the public domain, such as a speculated merger between ride-hailing apps Uber and Grab, th
The CCS has the power to review any merger which may result in a substantial lessening of competition here. In cases where information about a merger is not in the public domain, such as a speculated merger between ride-hailing apps Uber and Grab, the assessment will be based on information provided by the merging entities.ST FILE PHOTO

The process by which the Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS) gives confidential advice to businesses planning to merge has now been codified, under amendments to the Competition Act passed in Parliament yesterday.

During the debate, Mr Henry Kwek (Nee Soon GRC) asked if the speculated merger between ride-hailing apps Uber and Grab would achieve market dominance and crowd out taxi companies.

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon replied that the CCS has the power to review any merger which may result in a substantial lessening of competition in any market in Singapore.

The Commission is monitoring the matter, he added.

The new Section 55A applies in situations where information about a merger is not yet in the public domain.

In the spirit of confidentiality, the CCS will base its assessment of such anticipated mergers on information provided by the merging entities.

It will neither request information from any third party nor conduct a public consultation.

As such, advice issued under Section 55A is not binding on the CCS.

Previously, such advice on anticipated mergers was given via a process laid out in the CCS Guidelines on Merger Procedures 2012.

From 2013 to last year, the CCS investigated nearly a hundred cases of potential infringements of the Competition Act.

Responding to Mr Kwek's call for a committee to look into profiteering, Dr Koh said the Government will monitor the situation and take the necessary measures against businesses found to be profiteering.

Other changes to the Act relate to CCS investigations.

Businesses under investigation can now offer legally binding commitments to address any anti-competitive conduct.

This allows the CCS to take action more swiftly against a firm which provides but then breaches a commitment, as the CCS does not need to re-open investigations afresh, Dr Koh told Nominated Member of Parliament Azmoon Ahmad.

The interview process during an inspection has also been streamlined and simplified.

Janice Heng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 20, 2018, with the headline 'Changes to Competition Act passed'. Print Edition | Subscribe