File photo of San Miguel Corp. President and Chief Operating Officer Ramon S. Ang during the company's investors' briefing. File photo of San Miguel Corp. President and Chief Operating Officer Ramon S. Ang during the company's investors' briefing.

Anticompetitive practice in SMC telco deal eyed

Looking into possible anticompetitive practices in the telecommunications in-dustry is expected to be one of the first cases that the newly formed Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) will take on, but consumers need to do their part.

“The PCC was established to ensure that consumers don’t feel they are abused by their provider of services or goods, like paying so much or when prices [of the commodity] is high,” PCC Chair Arsenio Balisacan said in an interview.

In a statement, the PCC said it would assert all of its powers as provided for in the law “in view of the importance of this transaction to the public interest.”

“Because of the strong public clamor for faster, cheaper and better quality Internet and mobile services, and that these could be stymied by a lack of competition in the sector, the Commission has a keen interest in this proposed transaction,” the PCC said, adding that it would assess the matter and take action as appropriate.

The agency was referring to the sale by San Miguel Corp. (SMC) of its telco assets to the current duopoly of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) and Globe Telecom.

Balisacan, however, said that the PCC needed to be acting on a complaint before it could make a move although the regulator has the option of acting on its own initiative.

He said these were two ways for the PCC to act, but the first— if it was approached to do so such as when affected parties like consumer groups or individuals file a complaint—takes precedence.

“We may do certain things motu proprio (on one’s own accord), but as we are just starting this would be more like a scoping study—a scanning (or preliminary) assessment,” Balisacan said.

“One of the things we need now is for consumers to be aware that they can go to the PCC [with their problems],” he added.

Even then, the PCC is currently busy with finalizing the draft implementing rules of the law that created it.

The PCC last week held in Cebu Davao, and Manila a series of public consultations with business groups and other stakeholders on the proposed rules. Balisacan earlier said the final version of the rules was slated for release in June.

The veteran economist said the PCC has the potential of becoming one of the region’s best given the “sufficient teeth” vested by law on the agency.

“The PCC has quasi-judicial functions, allowing it to impose penalties on most anticompetitive practices,” he said.

Also, Balisacan said the consultations on the draft rules would be a healthy exercise for ensuring sound implementation of the law and effective operation of the PCC, which will have jurisdiction over all industries in matters related to competition.

“The consultations will help educate Filipinos on the provisions of the Philippine Competition Act, as well as on the vital role of the country’s newly created antitrust authority in pursuing consumer protection and in opening various industries to more investments,” Balisacan said.

He described the law, enacted last year after languishing in Congress during the previous 24 years, as a game-changer that would help boost generation and investments and jobs across industries by putting in place a regulatory environment conducive for fair market competition.

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Read 2180 times Last modified on Tuesday, 31 May 2016 16:30
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