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KARACHI: The Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KCCI) held an advocacy session with the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP). The chamber representatives apprised CCP of different competition issues and sought its help in creating a level playing field and removing entry barriers in the different sectors.

From KCCI, the advocacy session was attended by its president Muhammad Idrees, vice president Qazi Zahid Hussain, managing committee members, while from the CCP, its chairperson Rahat Kaunain Hassan, member Mujtaba Ahmad Lodhi, and director generals Noman Laiq and Asfandyar Khattak attended the session.

While speaking on the occasion, Rahat Kaunain Hassan said the CCP has imposed penalties of up to Rs70 billion for different violations of the Competition Act on various sectors.

However, the recovery remains paltry due to the fact that most of the undertakings have challenged the CCP’s orders in the higher courts where the due process of judicial review is underway. The real effectiveness of the CCP’s orders will be felt once the judicial review process is complete, particularly in the cartel cases that call for prioritization for the harm it incurs to the economy she added. The Chairperson further said that as an institution, the CCP is accountable for its mandate, but in the pending cases the review process has to take its course.

Rahat said as against the general impression, the CCP is not a price regulator, but it only intervenes where the prices of goods and services are affected by anti-competitive practices such as abuse of dominance and cartelization.

The main job of CCP is to make sure that markets are functioning in compliance with the competition rules and regulations. She further said that the CCP is not against businesses; rather the Competition Law is pro-business and pro-growth, however, without strict enforcement of the law, a competition culture cannot prevail. She informed that as per OECD reports/estimates, prices can go down 25-30 percent if cartels are busted.

During the session, KCCI members brought several issues and competition related matters to the CCP’s notice.

The chairperson offered that the CCP can change its regulations to exempt the Chambers of Commerce from charging of fee for filing formal complaints in endeavouring to address concern in resolving competition issues.

She informed that the informant reward scheme and leniency provisions are available which the business community can benefit from and help the CCP in identifying the anti-competitive issues. She assured the CCP’s full support in resolving the competition issues and creating a level playing field.

KCCI president Muhammad Idrees, while welcoming the CCP chairperson, stated that CCP undoubtedly plays an important role in providing equal opportunities and a level playing field to the business and industrial community and the efforts being made by the Commission have led to not only improving the business climate to a certain extent but also ensured that public is saved from unlawful profiteering, counterfeiting and sub-standard products.

Appreciating some of the major actions taken by CCP, he particularly mentioned that CCP took notice of unusual rise in prices of edible oil in 2020 and initiated inquiry against 110 edible oil companies that will help in stabilizing prices of this essential household product.

Moreover, the Sindh High Court recently ordered Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) and 26 other producers to deposit 50 percent of respective penalties, for grant of interim relief and suspension of CCP’s order that imposed around Rs44 billion on the sugar mills in cartelization case.

He said it was also heartening to see that CCP has launched two draft studies in the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and E-commerce sectors offering solid recommendations which would surely create a level playing field and highlight possible competition concerns in the e-commerce/online market.

He was of the opinion that the activities undertaken by CCP not only save the business and industrial community from anti-competitive practices but also protect consumers from being exploited.

While assuring full support and cooperation to CCP for all its endeavours to promote fair and best business practices, Muhammad Idrees requested CCP chairperson to arrange an awareness seminar at KCCI wherein a large number of businessmen, industrialists and small traders will be invited so that they could better understand CCP’s ambit, mandate and operations.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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