ISLAMABAD: Despite dwindling human resources, the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) has maintained its rating of two and a half stars out of five and its performance has been termed consistent by the Global Competition Review (GCR) in the 14th annual survey of the world’s leading competition authorities.
GCR welcoming the appointment of Dr Joseph Wilson as Chairman CCP said, “Highly respected by the Pakistani competition bar and in the wider anti-trust community, Dr Wilson is seen as a very safe pair of hands under whom the CCP will continue on its path to greater and more effective enforcement.”
GCR said Dr Wilson’s first few months in charge have been characterised by the CCP’s focus on advocacy and policy issues. The Commission is in regular dialogue with the government and sector regulators about the importance of considering competition law when drafting new regulations.
GCR has termed CCP a maturing authority, which is still facing the external challenges of operating in a tough environment, but has stuck to its mandate and continues to build a reputation of being taken speciously both within Pakistan and abroad.
CCP continues to remain active in the face of significant resource cut and staff reduction. While its budget has not changed, CCP cut staff from 147 in 2012 to 125 in 2013. For such a small authority, that represents a savage bite out of its resources.
Discussing CCP’s performance, GCR highlighted some significant cases handled by CCP over the past year. CCP’s action against 14 Long Distance and International operators, for price fixing and market allocation, in the International Clearing House case led to the imposition of a record fines of Rs 9 billion. In cases regarding abuse of dominance by businesses, 2013 was a record year with 15 cases-the highest number of cases to date underway with CCP launching 12 new investigations in the year alone. In a case regarding abuse of dominance by urea manufacturers, CCP charged fines of Rs 8.64 billion.
GCR has quoted lawyers as saying these record-breaking fines in large and powerful sectors such as telecom and chemical illustrates the CCP’s determination to stand up to all businesses regardless of their size or influence.
Recent advocacy efforts include issuance of a Policy Note to the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority to reform its distribution of flare gas licenses, and another Policy Note to the government recommending the removal of a capacity tax in the beverage industry, saying it was greatly damaging competition.
GCR welcomed Dr Wilson’s priorities for CCP including the revision of regulations, enhancing the strength of enforcement staff, working towards the financial and administrative independence of the Commission, active advocacy both with public and private sector, robust law enforcement and improving the staff’s technical expertise.
Discussing the challenges faced by CCP, GCR said a factor that hindered the effective functioning of CCP was the disposal of cases in the courts. Whereas the CCP adjudicated on cases in an expeditious manner, appeals before courts prolong endlessly. Currently more than 200 CCP cases are pending in various courts. Competition Appellate Tribunal, which would have ensured the timely disposal of cases have remained dysfunctional due to non-appointment of judges.
The London-based GCR is a leading international competition law journal and is widely consulted by competition authorities, lawyers and academicians.
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