Grab hits out at 'double standards' of competition watchdog

Grab will give up its exclusive arrangements if other players in the industry are required to do so as well, said a spokesman. Grab Singapore head Lim Kell Jay said the firm was committed to working with the Competition and Consumer Commission of Sin
Grab will give up its exclusive arrangements if other players in the industry are required to do so as well, said a spokesman. Grab Singapore head Lim Kell Jay said the firm was committed to working with the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore to "improve upon its proposed remedies".ST PHOTO: LEE JIA WEN

Ride-hailing firm says other players allowed exclusivity deals, as it defends Uber merger

Ride-hailing company Grab has criticised Singapore's competition watchdog, saying it employs double standards in opposing its acquisition of Uber's business here.

It argued the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore's (CCCS) proposed requirement - that it stop arrangements in which Grab drivers, taxi operators and car rental fleets work exclusively with Grab - is "one-sided" because other firms with similar exclusivity deals are not required to get rid of them.

"Grab believes that this double-standard goes against the spirit of increasing choices for drivers and riders," said its spokesman in a statement yesterday.

It, however, will give up the exclusive arrangements if other companies in the industry are required to do so as well, the spokesman added.

"Current market realities unfortunately do not reflect this, for instance, taxi operators are still able to restrict their drivers' ability to receive fixed-fare jobs on other platforms," the spokesman said.

Uber, which is based in the US, had announced in March that it was quitting the South-east Asian market and that Grab was acquiring its regional operations.

CONSTANTLY EVOLVING SECTOR

Grab welcomes such competition, and trusts the CCCS will take the appropriate measures to ensure a level playing field in the transportation services market without unduly favouring or disadvantaging any particular player.

GRAB, on the emergence of new ride-hailing companies and the growth seen by some taxi operators since Uber's exit.

The deal includes Uber taking a 27.5 per cent stake in its Singapore-based rival Grab and Uber's chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi joining Grab's board.

The commission said the deal reduced competition and had proposed measures to counter it.

Grab, in its appeal, said it believes the deal has complied with all the relevant antitrust regulations, and noted that businesses are not required to notify the commission of mergers and acquisitions.

But it had willingly informed the commission of the deal and offered facts and analysis to show it did not reduce competition, Grab added.

Recent developments following Uber's exit also show the "constantly evolving" and "fast-paced and dynamic nature" of Singapore's transport sector, Grab said, citing the emergence of new ride-hailing companies and the growth seen by some taxi operators.

"Grab welcomes such competition, and trusts the CCCS will take the appropriate measures to ensure a level playing field in the transportation services market without unduly favouring or disadvantaging any particular player," it added.

Grab also pointed out that it has retained its pre-acquisition pricing and driver commissions.

Earlier this month, the competition watchdog said the deal between the two ride-hailing giants had "substantially lessened" competition.

It also said both companies went ahead with the deal despite knowing that it would impact competition in the ride-hailing market.

They even had in place measures to split any eventual antitrust financial penalties, it noted.

To ensure competition, the commission proposed such measures as imposing financial penalties on both Grab and Uber, and removing exclusivity clauses between Grab and cab companies.

The head of Grab Singapore, Mr Lim Kell Jay, said that while it did not agree with some of the measures proposed, it was committed to working with the commission to "improve upon its proposed remedies to ensure a vibrant and dynamic transport sector".

Mr Lim added: "Today's transport sector is fiercely competitive, with numerous public and private transportation choices for consumers."

He added that a level playing field, where operators could compete fairly, would benefit both consumers and drivers in the long run.

A spokesman for the commission said a final decision will be made "after careful consideration of the involved parties' representations, feedback on the proposed remedies, as well as all available information and evidence".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 28, 2018, with the headline 'Grab hits out at 'double standards' of competition watchdog'. Print Edition | Subscribe