28 March 2018

On 19 March 2018, the Competition (Amendment) Bill (“Bill”) was passed in Parliament. The Bill was introduced in Parliament on 27 February 2018 following a public consultation on the proposed changes to the Competition Act (“Act”) which was conducted by the Competition Commission of Singapore (“CCS”) between 21 December 2017 and 11 January 2018. Although passed, the Bill is not yet in force. The key changes under the Bill are set out below.

CCS may accept binding and enforceable commitments for cases involving anti-competitive agreements and abuse of dominant position

Sections 60A and 60B of the Act will be amended to allow CCS to accept binding and enforceable commitments for cases involving anti-competitive agreements (“section 34 prohibition”) and abuse of dominant position (“section 47 prohibition”).

Currently, only commitments offered for the section 54 prohibition are binding and enforceable. Section 54 of the Act prohibits mergers or acquisitions that substantially lessen market competition. The amendments will align CCS’ approach to commitments for all the three main prohibitions under the Act, and also brings CCS’ practices in line with other jurisdictions such as the United States and the European Union.

Should CCS accept the offered commitments, CCS will cease their investigations.

CCS may provide confidential and non-binding advice on anticipated mergers as a statutory process

The new section 55A formalises CCS’ provision of confidential advice on anticipated mergers in a situation where information about the merger is not yet in the public domain. In the spirit of confidentiality, CCS will base its assessment of the anticipated merger on the information provided by the merging entities. CCS will not request for information from any third party, such as the applicant’s main customers or competitors, or conduct any public consultation to assist in their assessment. As such, the advice that CCS issues under the new section 55A is not binding on CCS.

This approach is consistent with practices in Australia and the United Kingdom, which operate voluntary notification regimes similar to Singapore.

CCS may conduct general interviews during inspections and searches

Section 63 of the Act will be amended to empower CCS enforcement officers entering any premises for the purposes of an investigation, to orally examine any individual on the premises. The amendment does not increase CCS’ enforcement powers, but addresses an administrative gap in the investigation process. CCS’ scope of questioning is still limited to the subject matter and purpose of the investigation. The proposed amendment also brings CCS’ practices in line with that of the European Union.

Reference materials

The following materials are available on the Parliament website www.parliament.gov.sg and Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) website www.mti.gov.sg:

 

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