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Saturday September 24, 2011

Your 10 questions with Tan Sri Siti Norma Yaakob

Malaysia Competition Commission chairman, Tan Sri Siti Norma Yaakob, answers...

1. What is the first priority of the Malaysian Competition Commission (MyCC) and for you as chairman?

To ensure that I have a full functioning Commission, the right kind of people with the right kind of attitude to run it as well as to put in place the necessary standard operating procedures to ensure transparency, accountability and intergrity.

2. Government-linked companies (GLCs) hold a lot of market power. Would they tend to contravene the spirit of competition?

The law does not exclude GLCs. Having market power by itself is not an offence, but if these GLCs do abuse their position because they have market power then MyCC can begin investigation or even the public can lodge a complaint against them. The country is moving towards an era of a more competitive environment. Competition culture must be embraced by all and sundry including the Government.

3. Would the commission look at the deal between Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia as arguments have been made that the deal breeds anti-competition?

Alliance is neither a joint venture nor a merger, but its effects on competition could be the same as those of any agreement between two parties competing in the same market. There will be positive and negative effects and we will follow the developments closely to see if any anti-competitive activities or agreements arise from it the post alliance effects.

4. Is there a model the MyCC will follow?

Much of the law is based on the EU law, and some on the UK model. We will study the decisions that have been made on several cases in these two jurisdictions, but of course, every jurisdiction differs geographically and economically and any decision taken will have to consider these two important elements.

5. What is your and the commission's strategies in ensuring fair competition is practised in the marketplace?

We will continue with advocacy programmes to ensure businesses are well informed of the law. And probably our first case would have to demonstrate the economic harm that is brought about when there is an anti-competitive practice in the market.

6. Is the anti-competition spirit in Malaysia entrenched and how difficult will it be in dismantling that?

I can say that the way businesses have been carried out in Malaysia clearly indicates high degrees of anti-competitive practices. Price fixing and market sharing have been a way of life in the business arena not only in Malaysia but all around the world. It is very much part and parcel of the business culture. I must say it is a real challenge, and anti-competitive practices must be weeded out so that Malaysian consumers are provided with good quality products and services at the right prices.

7. Does the MyCC have the mandate, especially in terms of political will, to ensure competition is preserved?

It has taken almost 19 years to get the support and political will to get the law passed in Parliament. That speaks for itself.

8. Is it fair to have exemptions to the Competition Act especially for industries that have their own regulatory authority?

Every jurisdiction that has the law has provisions for exemptions. To be realistic there are areas where industry specific treatment has to be given. Industries that have their own regulatory authority have been excluded simply because they have their own set of regulations on competition. But that does not mean all the activities under the sector are excluded. For example in the telecommunication sector, only the activities which are licenced under the Multimedia and Communications Act are excluded. All other activities are subject to the Competition Act 2010.

9. How will the MyCC enforce the law when it comes to deals that breed less competition and what are the limits of the commission?

All activities that are anti-competitive in nature are subject to the law. In terms of administrative priority, we will focus on agreements and conduct that are likely to or potentially have great impact on the welfare of consumers.

10. Will the MyCC review existing agreements that are deemed anti-competitive or will it act when a complaint is made?

It will only act when a complaint is made or when MyCC, as a watchdog, stumbles upon an anti-competitive behaviour.

Coming soon

Interest in Malaysian sports is in its renaissance. Sports is also being viewed more than just a recreational activity with there being plans to make it an industry and a valuable component to national income. If you have any questions for Youth and Sports Minister DATUK AHMAD SHABERY CHEEK, please email 10questions@thestar.com.my

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