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Friday 18 October 2019
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Fair Trading Act full proclamation soon

Market dominance must not be abused

FAIR Trading Commission executive director Bevan Narinesingh says there should be the full proclamation of the Fair Trading Act by the end of this Parliamentary session. "The idea is that legislation will be coming very soon."

He was speaking last week at the American Chamber of Commerce (Amcham) Fair Trading Act Forum at the Trinidad Hilton and Conference Centre, Port of Spain .

He said the commission will enforce anti-competition activities by companies with a 40 per cent market monopoly or "dominance" such as unreasonable price fixing, sharing of markets and bid rigging. He explained the commission was not against an entity having dominance and it should be rewarded if done through skill, foresight and diligence.

"But dominance should not be abused." Narinesingh said the penalties for those found in breach by the High Court is 10 per cent of the companies annual turnover. He explained the court will look at how long the practice has been taking place and how cooperative the company was.

He added: "The reputational damage may be worse than the fines." He said there needs to be greater awareness and sensitisation by the commission which is not only investigator but educator. He explained as investigator, and with the full proclamation, the commission will be allowed to seize electronic documents and will be assisted by police to enter premises. He said anyone hindering an investigation will face fines and summary convictions.

Narinesingh said there is also an amnesty provision where a company can come in and report any anti-competitive activities. "We are not a punitive entity. We need to promote and protect competition." He added: "If your practices are against competition please stop."

He said a lot of business activity will be affected by the full proclamation of the Act. "There will be beneficial effects with the Act coming into force." He said competition will lead to income growth, increased income equality and lower poverty levels.

Narinesingh said the commission has a one-month commitment to respond to a merger request but that does not mean the approval will be in one month as the commission may ask for further information.

Amcham CEO Nirad Tewarie said the commission could respond the day before the month ends and stressed there was a need for a predictable business environment. One attendee said a lack of regulatory certainty can discourage international investors.

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