Gloves off in 2013 declares Competition Commission CEO

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For those who complain that the Malaysian government doesn’t enforce its rules, Shila Dorai Raj chief executive officer of The Malaysia Competition Commission (MyCC) has news for you. “For 2013, our enforcement activities will shift gear, where we will focus on bid-rigging, trade associations and their practices, and of course the MyCC will no longer adopt a soft approach to enforcement.”

Hand in hand with that are also more education efforts and she offers her take on the view that Malaysians will judge MyCC based on the number of enforcement activities it carrie out.

Despite all the education and awareness efforts that have been done, are you surprised by the still low awareness levels by business towards the Competition Act?

Although our outreach activities have been vigorous since 2010, yet we know that more needs to be done to reach those on the ground.  Usually those we brief very rarely take back the information that they have received to their organisation, so information flow to those on the ground is something that we have to deal with. As any new competition authority experiences, the initial years are tough in terms of educating the public.  For multinationals though, competition law is not new as it is practiced by businesses internationally, and they even have internal compliance programmes. In due time, we hope to achieve such levels of understanding of the Act for local businesses too.

Are you trying anything new in regards to education and awareness campaigns?

Yes, in fact we are planning more targeted and focussed discussions, especially for groups who find that they need some solutions to their problems and those who need further explanation of the law. We want to set up consultative groups so that the voice of certain organisations work together with us to help disseminate knowledge about the Act.

Are there any particular business groups that seem to be taking the Competition Act more seriously than the rest. If yes, what is their motivation?

Yes, the SMEs in particular are very concerned about the implications of the Act on them. They are seeking to be exempted citing the Act as a burden to doing business. It is another example of not truly understanding what the Act does as they fail to see that the Act can actually make them more competitive and springboard them to be internationally competitive. Local businesses need to adopt a broader and long term view if they want to continuously improve themselves and benchmarking against international business practices will help expand their horizons further.

The rakyat will judge you based on the number of companies you haul up and fine. Is that a good barometer to gauge your Commission’s success?

No, it is not. I would think that the number of companies having compliance programmes is a better barometer. Of course, as with all enforcement agencies, the Rakyat expect the KPIs to be the number of cases investigated and fined. But the law was introduced not to punish anyone but rather to encourage competitiveness and innovation which are the yardsticks for a nation to be a developed country status.

As Singapore is the closest country which has its own Competition Commission, what lessons have you learned from them to help you do your job better.

Among the lessons we observed from CCS are their processes and procedures, which are put in place in a transparent manner, and their case studies are certainly helpful references for us in explaining implications of the law to local businesses.

Is the Competition Act just another layer of hurdles, or must   entrepreneurs deal with it to become a more competitive business.

As far as the Act is concerned, there is no additional cost of doing business with the introduction of the law. The Competition Act focuses on the welfare of consumers, economic efficiency and creating a level playing field for competitors.

What are the common misconceptions you come across in regards to the Competition Act?

That enterprises by themselves are not allowed to set prices, that aggregate information cannot be released by associations, that consumer issues such as misleading advertisements are also a competition issue.

Another major misconception perhaps is the belief that investigations by competition authorities can be concluded in a very short period of time. We have to stress that investigations on competition cases can take a long time due to the amount of information we have to sift through and the type of research, especially on the economic aspect, which needs to be done.

What have been your key successes this year and what is the game plan for 2013? More education?

Definitely yes, more education.

On successes, well, I have to say that a number of government agencies, aware of the implications of the law have asked for our advice while formulating their laws and policies. The institution has been put in place with the necessary procedural rules and regulations. For our external stakeholders, we have issued 4 sets of guidelines. We have decided on one case, which is a milestone, considering that some other foreign jurisdictions took more than 4 years or so after the introduction of the law to decide on the first case.

For 2013, our enforcement activities will shift gear, where we will focus on bid-rigging, trade associations and their practices, and of course the MyCC will no longer adopt a soft approach to enforcement. Those found guilty of infringements will be asked to pay a penalty.

Photo courtesy of Flickr User  fpsurgeon

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