Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 28th 2015 Contents MAY 2015 • WEEK FOUR www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
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that the President proclaim the remaining
parts of the act still to be proclaimed."
"When the full act is proclaimed, we can
carry out investigations. We have to keep the
minister advised on competition matters and
what s going on in the economy. We have to
make available to businesses and the general
public, information with respect to their rights
and obligations. Then we have to undertake
studies, publicise reports," said Tiwary-Reddy.
But before any work can begin, there is need
for the FTC to find headquarters which are
independent of the Ministry of Trade so the
public can feel comfortable to file any com-
plaints or queries.
Investigators, a corporate secretary and other
staff members are some of the items on the
commission s check list to be officially
employed at the FTC. Generally, she said, the
FTC s work involves implementing the fun-
damentals of economics and law.
Referring to fines/penalties, Tiwary-Reddy
said the board does not have the power to
impose fines but can take the accused to court.
She added that the ground work must first
be done in order for a "case to be made out"
against the accused then it goes to court.
"The court, which is the High court, would
be able to adjudicate. We would have to do
the ground work to make out a case for doing
it. That is not available yet as the law is not
yet passed to give the High Court the power."
She said the decision to take the matter to
court lies with the commission. However, if
the accused does not agree with that decision
they can go to court to contest that decision.
"The court can review a decision made by
the commission at the request of any party.
For instance, somebody has come to complain
to you, and you found that there wasn t any
evidence to support it, you chose not to go
to court. If that aggrieved party chooses to go
to court and challenge your decision, they can
do it. The court can review the decision of
the commission for deferment under another
There are 192 fair trading commissions glob-
ally, said Tiwary-Reddy. Looking at the UK
version, known as the Office of Fair Trading
(OFT), in 2002 and 2003 it accused nine com-
panies of collusion to rig the price of cheese
and milk, the UK-based Guardian reported.
The scandal cost consumers about £270m.
The accused supermarket chains were Tesco,
Asda, Sainsbury s and Safeway.
The accused dairy processors were: Arla,
Dairy Crest, McLelland, the Cheese company
and Wiseman. The accused companies Sains-
bury s and Asda are among companies that
have agreed to pay the Treasury near-record
fines of more than £116m after admitting that
they fixed the price of milk, cheese and but-
ter.Each received lenient fines after admitting
liability, but Tesco denied that it colluded with
the other companies and threatened legal
action and questioned the OFT s role in impos-
The OFT had said its decision to impose
fines would send a clear message to businesses
engaging in anti-competitive practices to halt
their wrongdoing, therefore its role was an
Since July, the FTA has also been networking
and meeting stakeholders, making presenta-
tions about its work to associations and groups.
It is also the newest member of the Interna-
tional Competition Network (ICN) which is
the global think tank in the area of competition
law and policy.
Mergers and acquisitions
Referring to mergers and acquisitions, Nar-
inesingh said: "Part III of the act deals with
mergers and acquisitions. We are also in the
process of preparing merger guidelines based
on a Caricom model which we expect will
give greater guidance with respect to the merger
If that part of the act were to be proclaimed,
companies merging would be required to reg-
ister with the FTC, Tiwary Reddy said.
"Under Section 14, all anti-competitive
mergers are prohibited. Enterprises should not
enter into a merger unless they obtain per-
mission from the commission where their
assets exceed $50 million or where one of the
enterprises carries on or intends to carry on
business in T&T."
There is power in the act to make regulations
"At this stage we don t have the regulations
in place, it would have to be done by the Par-
The FTC has the power to deal with issues
1. The abuse of monopoly power
2. Anti-competitive mergers
3. Anti-competitive agreements
4. The enforcement of relevant clauses or
Narinesingh said with market liberalisation
there is the possibility of anti-competitive
behaviour, therefore it is imperative that a
FTC be established. Narinesingh said T&T
has joined the international Fair Trading net-
work which means it can get advice and
expertise on the way forward.
Businesses that do not fall under the purview
of the FTC include:
• telecommunication sectors
• Regulated Industries Commission
Businesses which come under the FTC s watch
• Retail stores
• Agriculture sector
• Hotel industry
• Health sector (private)
Doing industry studies are key in terms of
understanding a market, as well as the com-
mission can determine which parts of the
sector which are anti-competitive, Narinesingh
"If owners of private healthcare institutions,
maybe six of them, meet somewhere and
decide we control the market and we can
charge $100,000 for a surgery and we are not
going under that, if anybody goes under
$100,000 we would take you out of the market.
This is like a cartel."
He said it does not mean that every business
within that same sector must have one price.
"This would be a way to ensure that everyone
has better quality services at better prices to
ensure fairness and competitiveness."
Narinesingh added that when a free market
works, the true costs of something is reflected
by demand and supply. "We are trying to get
a market closer to perfect competition, you
won t have that, but at least it is closer to that
Poor conduct is another area that falls under
the duties of the commission.
"We are here to outlaw anti-competitive
behaviour which is detrimental to the consumer
or the economy on the whole."
Poor conduct defined by Narinesingh occurs
when a business does not promote efficiency
and the business is operating in a manner
where they are creating barriers to entry, result-
ing in smaller businesses getting pushed out
of the market or not being attracted to the
market. Behaviour such as under pricing of
goods so the competitor would not be able to
enter the market is one example of Poor con-
Global competitive index
Narinesingh believes that T&T can get a
better score now that the FTC is in place since
international assessment agencies look at
matrices as well as whether there is a com-
petition agency in place.
"One of the reasons we were put in place
is to help attract foreign direct investment
because investors would know there is an
independent competition agency. If there are
issues about business practices by competitors,
they would want to ensure that they are prop-
erly established in a country and has a level
He also said the FTC would be working
with the Caricom Competition Commission
in Suriname to deal with cross-border issues
that may arise. The legislation that entity uses
is the Caricom Treaty.
Improving global competitiveness
About the Caricom
The CCC was inaugurated on Jan-
uary 18, 2008. It was established
by Article 171 of the Revised Treaty
of Chaguaramas. It is one of the in-
stitutions in support of the Cari-
com Single Market and Economy.
The CCC is headquartered in Suri-
The functions of the CCC:
• apply the rules of competition
in respect of anti-competitive
cross-border business conduct;
• promote and protect competi-
tion in the Community and co-ordi-
nate the implementation of the
Community Competition Policy;
• perform any other function con-
ferred on it by any competent body
of the community
Section 174-177 outlines the
powers of the CCC which include:
"Subject to Articles 175 and 176,
the Commission may, in respect of
cross-border transactions or trans-
actions with cross-border effects,
monitor, investigate, detect, make
determinations or take action to in-
hibit and penalise enterprises
whose business conduct prejudices
trade or prevents, restricts or dis-
torts competition within the CSME.
The commission may, in accor-
dance with applicable national
laws, in the conduct of its investi-
Concerning consumers, the CCC
has the following powers:
• Article 186: Action by the com-
mission to provide support in the
promotion of consumer welfare
and protection of consumer inter-
(according to http://www.caricomcompeti-
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