Bangladesh Competition Commission has started, for the first time, its core function with investigation into allegations of anti-competitive practices by two organisations.
The competition watchdog has already completed its preliminary inquiries into an allegation of anti-competitive practice conducted by RAOWA Convention Hall through appointing Iqbal Hossain Catering Service as its sole agent of catering services.
Retired Armed Forces Officers’ Welfare Association, Bangladesh (RAOWA) cultural and entertainment sub-committee member Akbar Hossain, however, told New Age on Thursday that they had already decided to terminate the contract with the catering service provider soon to comply with the competition act.
On the other hand, the commission is inquiring into an allegation against the Chittagong Customs Clearing and Forwarding Agents Association that it has set minimum commission for its services it provides to traders in violation of the competition act.
The government framed the competition act in June 2012 and established the commission in the same year.
But the commission remained just in paper until April, 2016 when it got its first chairman.
‘We have initiated the investigations into the matters after getting complaints from stakeholders,’ BCC chairman Iqbal Khan Chowdhury told New Age on Wednesday.
He termed the move as positive as it came despite having lack of adequate manpower, experts, rules and regulations, and other logistic supports of the commission.
He said that the commission had initiated the inquiry into the allegation that RAOWA Convention Hall was involved in anti-competitive practice through creating monopoly in catering service by enlisting Iqbal Hossain Catering Service as its sole catering service provider.
The initial inquiry found the accuracy of the allegation, he said, adding that now the commission would ask the RAOWA Convention Hall authority to appear at a hearing in the next month.
Regarding the allegation against the CCC&FAA, he said that the commission had sought some clarifications from the National Board of Revenue as the association claimed that their fees and commission were approved by the NBR.
Iqbal, a retired secretary of the government, said that any type of commissions should be competitive and should not be pre-determined by service providers.
According to the Competition Act-2012, no person will, directly or indirectly, enter into any agreement or collusion, in respect of production, supply, distribution, storage or acquisition of any goods or services, which causes or is likely to have an adverse effect on competition or creates monopoly or oligopoly in the market.
No enterprise will abuse its dominant position like imposition of, directly or indirectly, unfair or discriminatory condition in purchase or sale of goods or services or discriminatory price or predatory price in purchase or sale of goods or services, the law said.
Bangladesh Competition Commission was established in December in 2012 but it started its formal journey in 2016 after getting its chairman in April and two members in August in the year.
According to the law, the responsibility of the commission is, among others, to eliminate practices having adverse effect on competition in the market, to promote and sustain congenial atmosphere for the competition in trade, and to prevent, control and eradicate collusion, monopoly and oligopoly, combination or abuse of dominant position or activities adverse to the competition.
As per the competition act, the commission has the power to direct errant person or enterprise to discontinue anti-competitive practices and to impose up to 10 per cent of the average turnover for the last three years as fine.
In case of failure in obeying the decision of the commission, it may impose up to Tk 1 lakh for each day of non-compliance as fine.
Aggrieved person or enterprise has the right to seek review of the commission’s decision and file appeal with court.
Iqbal said that the commission took almost one and a half years after formation to start its core function as it had been struggling due to lack of manpower and logistic supports.
Last month, it got approval from the government for recruiting 73 officers and employees while some of the core rules and regulations are yet to be formulated, he said.
The commission is yet to achieve capacity to handle anti-competitive issues that involve high technicalities as the commission is yet to get its own manpower and experts, he said.
‘We are also appraising different government offices to create awareness against anti-competitive activities,’ he said.
BCC member Abul Hossain Miah said that the commission was now running its regular activities with only eight officials excluding its chairman and two members.
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