The TT Fair Trading Commission (TTFTC) now has the power to take action against companies who engage in price fixing, bid rigging, group boycotts, market sharing or any unfair trading practices now that the TTFTC Act was proclaimed on February 10.
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday about the new developments under the Fair Trading Act at the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s head office in Port of Spain, executive director Bevan Narinesingh said the commission can now take to court any business or individual who has been found guilty by the TTFTC of anti-competitive practices and has failed to take corrective measures. State enterprises are not exempted.
“The consequences of infringement can be major, including significant reputational damage, unenforceability of agreements, risk and costs of investigation and ultimately, significant fines being imposed (up to 10 per cent of total turnover).
“Based on investigations and cases brought in similar jurisdictions, sectors where the legislation may lead to positive changes include construction, medical/pharmaceutical, alcohol, energy services, motor vehicle, food production, supply/distribution, entertainment, hotel and transport.”
The act also allows for a transitional amnesty, that is, a grace period for entities to come to the commission to ensure they are up to date with the new law and Narinesingh urged organisations and people to check in.
According to the act, any enterprise that is party to or engaged in an anti-competitive agreement or practice shall notify the commission within one month of the act coming into force of the details of its anti-competitive agreement or practice.
Narinesingh said the gains to be derived from a well-functioning and effective piece of legislation such as this “will result in innumerable benefits to the population of this country.”
Once it is properly implemented, the legislation can, with other pieces of important legislation and effective government policy, result in long-term sustainable growth and development.
The act was passed by Parliament in 2006, and subsequently partially proclaimed in 2007 and 2014, allowing for the establishment of the TTFTC. On February 10, the date of full proclamation, TT joined more than 130 jurisdictions globally including Jamaica, Barbados and Guyana, which have legislation addressing competition issues.
Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon said the legislation is relevant, necessary and essential at this stage of the country’s development.
“The legislation is also in conformity with the Government’s ongoing efforts through the Ministry of Trade and Industry, to create a fair and free competitive environment for business activity with emphasis on sustainable growth and development.
“Proclamation of the act in TT means that the commission, the agency now established under the legislation to promote and maintain competition, is now officially able to receive and investigate complaints and allegations of anti-competitive conduct in TT and deliver findings in respect of same,” she said.
Gopee-Scoon said the ministry recognised that many stakeholders have already raised concerns regarding alleged anti-competitive practices in TT and with the legislation now fully in force, the TTFTC will be able to address those concerns.