27 April 2018

The Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (“CCCS”) was officially launched on 9 April 2018. The Competition Commission of Singapore (“CCS”) was renamed the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore after taking on an additional function of administering the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act (“CPFTA”) with effect from 1 April 2018 pursuant to the Enterprise Singapore Board Act 2018.

Daren Shiau, Co-Head of the Allen & Gledhill Competition & Antitrust practice, notes: “As the national competition authority since 2005, CCCS has a track record of upholding competition law principles objectively through a proactive and robust process. In its new consumer protection role, CCCS may be expected to be as rigorous and effective in its enforcement of the CPFTA measures to ensure businesses engage in sound trading practices.”

CCCS to deal with errant retailers persistent in unfair trade practices

At the launch event, CCCS Chairman, Mr Aubeck Kam highlighted that mediation of complaints against errant retailers through the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) will continue to be the first port of call to assist consumers. CCCS will handle the investigation of errant retailers who persist in unfair trade practices. CCCS may file injunction applications with the court to deal with such egregious traders and trading practices. To ensure cases involving Penal Code offences such as cheating are dealt with in a seamless manner, CCCS will also work closely with the police.

New synergies between competition and consumer protection

The enforcement of the Competition Act deals with the anti-competitive conduct of businesses while the enforcement of the CPFTA ensures that businesses engage in sound trading practices. Competition and consumer protection share a close and complementary relationship. Measures to enhance competition in markets can bring about benefits for consumers, and similarly, measures to empower consumers can also spur greater competition in markets. CCCS’ powers under the CPFTA work hand in glove with its powers under the Competition Act. For example, CCCS regularly initiates market inquiries to examine competition concerns in a particular market.

One recent example is the market study on supply of car parts in Singapore which resulted in CCCS working with major car dealers to amend the car warranty terms and conditions to facilitate a more competitive market where third-party car workshops can compete effectively in providing car servicing and repair services, which will help to facilitate a more competitive market for car repairs and servicing, with more choices for car owners. Another example is the market inquiry into the supply of formula milk in Singapore which resulted in a multi-agency workforce to push through some of the recommendations which were made to bring about a more balanced market for the infant milk sector.

CCCS’ new initiatives

The following two new studies were also announced at the launch event:

  • Market study on the online travel booking sector

To help CCCS understand how commercial practices and arrangements in the online travel booking sector impact competition and consumers in Singapore, CCCS will conduct a market study which will focus on understanding the industry landscape relating to both the provision of flight tickets and hotel accommodation in Singapore. In particular, CCCS will examine the types of commercial arrangements entered into between third party online travel booking platforms and the service providers, including how such commercial arrangements are negotiated and applied in Singapore, and how online travel booking platforms and service providers compete with each other.

  • Joint study with PDPC to examine consumer protection, competition and personal data protection issues if data portability requirement is introduced

CCCS and the Personal Data Protection Commission (“PDPC”) will work together to study consumer protection, competition and personal data protection issues which could arise if a data portability requirement is introduced in Singapore.

Internationally, several jurisdictions have provided, or are considering providing for a right to data portability, which enables individual consumers to request for their personal data and other data which they have provided to a service provider to be given to another competing provider they have decided to switch to, in a format which is structured, commonly used and machine-readable.

This will enhance individual consumers’ ability to choose between providers, as they do not have to repeatedly provide their details each time they switch providers. In addition, the right to data portability could extend to requiring service providers to transmit the personal data to another service provider without hindrance, where it is technically feasible.

The ease of switching will in turn foster competition between different service providers and also encourage them to innovate and develop new services, resulting in more choices for consumers.

Reference materials

The following materials are available on the CCCS website www.cccs.gov.sg and the Ministry of Trade and Industry website www.mti.gov.sg:

 

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