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Preparing for the Competition Law

The 14th of December will be an important day for the business community as that is when the Competition Ordinance comes into effect. This cross-sectoral law will affect just about every business in Hong Kong. Many members have shared with me their concerns about achieving compliance as they struggle to understand such issues as what conduct is deemed appropriate or otherwise under the law. For example, existing practices such as the sharing of information among trade counterparts may comprise a breach of the law.

While the Chamber believes that competition can help promote business development, there are however concerns about the regulatory burden that Competition Ordinance will impose on day-to-day business activities. Given the foregoing, we have seized on every opportunity available to present our views tothe Government throughout the formulation legislation stage. The Chamber has also been actively involved in providing comments to the Competition Commission on the Guidelines under the Competition Ordinance.

To address issues arising from the new law, the Chamber, through its expert working group, has worked closely with the Government and the Commission over the past few years to minimise the disruptive impact that a regulatory regime could inflict on the domestic market. There is still room for improvement and we are continuing to push for clarification on certain provisions, as well as guidance on the types of conduct prohibited under the new rules. We also hope that the Government will introduce block exemptions, an instrument that is quite common in the United States and the European Union, as soon as possible for certain sectors.

Although there are areas where the Ordinance can be improved, it is nevertheless a piece of law which all businesses must comply with when this comes into force. That said, and because of the continuing difficulties experienced by businesses described earlier in this column, we are extremely disappointed with the Government’s lack of plans for a grace or transition period. As enactment of the Ordinance will take place in more or less two months, businesses must prepare themselves accordingly. They should also ensure that their staffs have a good grasp of the law so that unintentional breaches can be avoided.

Here at the Chamber, we are ready to help and provide support to members on obtaining a better understanding of the Ordinance. One of these is through accessing videos of previously held events on competition law. Recently organised seminars that members may find useful include a talk on the criminal aspects of the Ordinance, and that on the prospects of block exemptions in Hong Kong.

We will continue to reflect members’ opinions to the Competition Commission whenever the opportunity arises. Members may also wish to keep track of upcoming events at the Chamber. For example, there are two competition law-related seminars one of which caters to SMEs and the other on gearing up for the implementation of the law. We shall be doing our utmost to educate and inform members on the new Ordinance through different channels, including detailed reports in the November issue of The Bulletin.

Posted on 2015/10/12