Competition regulators from Kenya and India see role in terms of public interest – CUTS Competition Conference

Policy and Regulatory Report , March 20, 2018

1. Kenya agency paved way for Uber to enter market; consumers benefitted
2. Former Indian regulator official floats idea of heftier fines in key consumer sectors

Competition commissions and the governments need to cooperate in order to establish healthy business competition and create a stronger economy in the public interest, regulators said at the antitrust conference.

Francis Wang’ombe Kariuki, Competition Authority of Kenya’s (CAK) Director General, said each competition agency should strive to understand its government’s vision on building the economy and work toward achieving goals through policy advisory and enforcement.

Speaking at the International Conference on Competition and Development, organized by CUTS International in New Delhi on Monday (20 March), Kariuki said the Kenyan government considered manufacturing, housing, and food security among the country’s main sectors and his commission was similarly focused.

“We have the law to achieve inclusive growth, but the key is enforcement,” he said. In addition, the commission needs to understand public needs and how it can best contribute to the society.

Kariuki spoke of the country’s experience with the ride-hailing service Uber. The CAK declined to block the service from entering the market and went about ensuring that it was able to compete with conventional taxi services. This occurred after the commission studied various aspects of the market and the service and what Uber could bring to the market. He said Uber created jobs in Kenya and reduced costs for passengers by 30%.

Dhanendra Kumar, former chairman of Competition Commission of India (CCI), said that as an independent agency, the CCI should work hand-in-hand with the government to benefit society.

While the commission works to ensure fair business competition, the fines and penalties paid by companies that violate the competition law should be invested in public projects, such as building infrastructure, Kumar said.

He added that competition policies should focused on protecting consumers in the most vital sectors. Both government and the commission can work together to identify what these sectors are, he added.

Products and services that most people use on a daily basis should be prioritized, he said, adding a different level of enforcement should be applied to these areas, giving their importance to the majority of citizens.

Kumar, who led the CCI between 2009 and 2011, stressed that the commission should work in the interest of the “common man.”

Competition commissioners in India must look beyond New Delhi and the business centers and assess the country’s broader range of needs and conditions, Kumar said. Greater supervision and a stricter application of the rules should flow from a greater understanding of the domestic market, he added.

“For instances, the commission could aim to impose heavier penalties on anti-competition conduct in the agriculture, housing, clothing and education sectors,” he said.

by Indra Budiari, Freny Patel and Shivendra Kumar in Delhi

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