Suggested changes: We propose to amend the Competition Act to allow the CCCS to carry out general interviewing during inspection, to agree to firm and assertible undertakings in cases of anti-competitive agreement and abuses of dominant position, and to consolidate the procedure for contacting the CCCS to provide confidentiality counsel in connection with a potentially anti-competitive concentration.
Consolidating the CCCS and the changes it proposes will have a positive impact on Singapore's legislative framework. Nevertheless, the impact is significant and those who believe they may be affected by the changes should consult them. The Singapore Competition Commission ("CCS"), now the Competition and Consumer Commission ("CCCS"), published a consultative document in December 2017 in which three major changes to the Competition Act ("Act") were suggested.
Furthermore, in February 2018, the Singapore Parliament adopted the Enterprise Singapore Board Bill ("Bill"), which will reorganise the CCS to implement legislation on consumers' rights, in order to add to its historical role of enforcing the law's competitive requirements. Enlargement of the CCS and the amendments to the Act show the intention of the CCCS to create a safer and more effective enforcing environment while extending its own investigation and prosecution capabilities.
Enlargement of the CCCS and the changes suggested will generally enhance the overall level of regulatory discipline in Singapore, but the regulatory impact of the changes suggested is significant and should be fully appreciated by companies active in Singapore. CCCS suggests introducing a clause into the Act outlining the procedure for notifying a party looking for confidentiality guidance on potentially anti-competitive transactions.
Currently, the procedure is included in the CCCS Principles on Mergers Procedures 2012 ("Guidelines"). The introduction of a procedural legal procedure should give companies more trust in advising with the CCCS. The CCCS published a "Response to Public Consultation" document in February 2018, assuring interested stakeholders that the text of the clause would guarantee that the consultative procedure would remain confidentiality and in line with the latest guidance.
It is welcome that this law is included in its present version as it will give companies more trust in the consultation with CCCTBs. Proposal for modification would allow the CCCS to ask general queries to residents of rooms under search pursuant to Articles 64 and 65 of the Act. The CCCS is currently only able to question inmates on documentation that has been confiscated as part of a CCCS inquiry, and the CCCS cannot ask general prisoner question ing without prior notification in writing to each person to be interrogated.
There are two reservations regarding the changes proposed: Languages are wide enough to allow CCCS to interrogate individuals or materials outside the research framework (perhaps unintentionally). CCCS tried to dispel these doubts through explanations: As the CCCS has explained, these changes are aimed at streamlining the investigative procedure and minimising disruption to operations.
Currently, pursuant to Articles 34 and 47 of the Act (prohibition of anti-competitive arrangements or misuse of market power), the CCCTB can be given a voluntarily commitment by the notifying party to the CCCTB that it will take a particular type of remedy.
CCCS suggests entering into mandatory obligations under Articles 34 and 37 on a mandatory basis, similarly to mandatory and legally enforcable mergers obligations. As the CCCS has argued, this approach enables it to repair damage to the markets more quickly and to conserve natural resource.
When these changes come into force, the contracting entities must continue to legally take into account the extent, conditions and implications of agreements with the CCCTB. In February 2018, the Singapore Parliament adopted the Enterprise Singapore Board Bill ("Bill"), which will reorganise the CCCS to govern and assert its role as a provider of fair trade services to consumers, and its role as a provider of anti-trust oversight under the Fair Trade Act (Cap. 50B).
In the second quater of 2018, the Standards, Productivity and Innovation Board ("SPRING") will assume the role of providing consumers with the necessary level of security under the German Law on Food and Drink Privacy ("Fair Trading"). It will also set up the Enterprise Singapore Board to perform the rest of the functionality of SPSRING and the International Enterprise Singapore Board.
For the purposes of this Regulation, the ultimate company shall be the Competition and Consumers Commission of Singapore. As a result of this process of stabilisation, the CCCTB' s role will be brought into line with that of other legal systems such as Australia, the United Kingdom and Japan. Like in other jurisdictional systems, the functional consolidations will allow the CCCTB to rationalise distinct investigation and exchange information, thereby providing more resilient protection for consumers.
In Australia, as we have seen (although Australia has mixed legislation), questions that attract the Australian Commission on Fair Trade and Consumers or ACCC are often associated with anti-competitive and anti- consumers concerns. It is our belief that this is a progress for competitiveness and better regulations for consumers in the area. Those suggested changes indicate that the CCCS aims to become more established in the judiciary than competitive and regulatory oversight.
Once the suggested changes to the Competition Act enter into force, companies with operations in Singapore should make sure that they fully appreciate the regulatory implications and seek advice when they need it.