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Competition unit seeks feedback on changes to guidelines
THE Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS), a statutory board tasked with investigating anti-competition activities, is consulting the public, including law firms, the business community and government departments, on proposed changes to its guidelines.
The changes include a streamlined merger assessment process, a fast track procedure for companies under investigation, and a clearer process for cartel whistleblowers.
Consultation documents can be found on the CCS website as well as the government's online consultation portal Reach. The public can submit their responses online, by e-mail or by mail by Nov 6, 2015.
CCS said that proposed changes to its guidelines will make it easier for businesses, consumers and stakeholders to understand various competition concepts.
For example, CCS administers a voluntary merger regime where businesses can conduct their own assessment as to whether their merger and acquisition is likely to raise competition issues. To help businesses do the self-assessment, CCS is proposing a number of changes to its Substantive Assessment of Mergers guidelines.
This includes clarifying when the acquisition of minority shareholdings may lead to a party having decisive influence, resulting in a reviewable merger by CCS. "The streamlining and simplification of the various notification forms will save businesses both time and resources in providing information to CCS during the notification process."
CCS is also making its whistleblowing process - called a leniency programme - clearer and more efficient. For example, coercers and initiators of cartel activity, currently not eligible for immunity or leniency, will be able to apply for the programme and receive a reduction of financial penalties of up to 50 per cent.
Meanwhile, CCS is also exploring the potential benefits of a fast track procedure for companies it is investigating. This can increase the efficiency of the enforcement process.
Ameera Ashraf, head of WongPartnership's Competition and Regulatory Practice, noted that 2015 was the 10th anniversary of the establishment of CCS, and was thus an opportune time for a review of its procedures.
She highlighted how CCS included amendments allowing for greater discretion in increasing penalties imposed on parties involved in bid-rigging activity. "This focus on the deterrence of bid rigging follows a recent publication by CCS in May this year on auction design to prevent collusive tendering during the auction process."