The Competition Authority is set to change its name to reflect its widened mandate, which includes consumer protection, a draft Bill still to be debated in Parliament and passed into law says.
The Bill, which was gazetted recently, says the competition watchdog will change its name to the Competition and Consumer Authority (CCA) while the structure of the organisation will also be changed as part of efforts to rid any conflict of interest with its governing body, the Competition Commission.
The Bill proposes a new governing body called the Competition and Consumer Board, which will be responsible for the governance of affairs of the Competition and Consumer Authority. A new tribunal known as the Competition and Consumer Tribunal will also be established to play an adjudicative role in disputes arising from the decision of the Competition and Consumer Authority.
Under the current Act, the Authority deals with all operational matters, whilst the Competition Commission, is both the governing body of the Authority, and has an adjudicative role to settle disputes arising out of decisions from the Authority. This arrangement posed conflict of interest concerns and has been the subject of contention by aggrieved parties who appeared before the Competition Commission.
The new law, if passed, will also repeal the Consumer Protection Act, with its provision now catered for under the new Competition Act.
At the commencement of the new Act, the consumer protection office shall cease operations as a government department and its functions and duties shall be transferred to the CCA, reads the Bill.
All the staff of the consumer protection office shall be seconded to the Authority for a period of 12 months while all pending
Some of the proposed amendments to the Act include a new provision for criminal sanctions for officers or directors of enterprises who contravene the provisions of the Act by committing an offence of entering into anti-competitive practices, such as price-fixing and bid rigging.
The Bill would introduce sanctions for these anti-competitive practices, as any officer or director is therefore liable for a fine not exceeding P100,000 or a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years or both.
Under the current Act, there is no such sanction.
On the merger control provisions of the Bill, a new section will be introduced, which allows participants to, within 14 days after a decision to reject a merger is made, make an application to request the CCA to re-consider its decision by providing a presentation of new facts or evidence that were not submitted with the original notification. This allows parties to have a second chance of arguing their matter.
Under the Bill, a person who is aggrieved by the decision of the Tribunal has the right to either appeal the decision of the Tribunal or to take them on review to the High Court. This is different from the Act, which provides for an appeal from decisions of the Competition Commission, which are to be determined by using the principles of review.
Investment, Trade and Industry Minister, Vincent Seretse is set to present the Bill to Parliament.