This is an Insight article, written by a selected partner as part of GCR's co-published content. Read more on Insight
With the Competition Act 2010 fully in force, the MyCC has been busy in its investigative role. 2013 saw a couple of proposed decisions being made, several exemption applications being processed and advisory opinions being given. While the Commission has grown in size and responsibilities, the challenges nevertheless remain, ie, high expectations that the MyCC will bring about overnight changes and quick decisions on complaints lodged, dismantle anti-competitive policies and expect guilds or associations to toe the line immediately.
The strategic priorities for the MyCC in 2014 will be a continuation of those undertaken in 2013, simply because outcomes can only be achieved with continuous strategic programmes that have an impact. Some of those that we will focus on represent a narrowing in focus, taking into account issues we have faced in the last couple of years and which need allocation of the scarce resources we have in order to deliver maximum benefits for our stakeholders. Market research shows that we are not connecting enough with consumers and certain groups while the policy environment and public awareness are critical to our enforcement efforts. Therefore one of our principle aims is to create a culture of compliance by raising awareness of the benefits the law can bring about.
A key focus area for the MyCC in the years to come will be bid rigging. As we know through OECD reports, such activities drain the government and taxpayers billions of ringgit every year. The move against bid rigging began in 2013 with several initiatives. Firstly, the guideline on bid rigging published by the OECD is being translated into Bahasa Malaysia (the national language) and is in the process of being fine-tuned before it is sent to the OECD to be uploaded on to their website. While this guideline is a useful reference tool for all procurement officers, what the MyCC intends to do is to modify it for local usage – not only for the central agency but also for others in the public sector. A successful workshop held by the MyCC, together with the OECD–Korea Policy Centre, for key officers in the federal capital of Putrajaya was an eye-opener for several attendees. Many of them requested follow-up sessions and a fast-track investigation into a bid-rigging matter to showcase the implications of such an activity, as well as to educate the public on the seriousness of this issue.
Advocacy will definitely continue in 2014. A baseline awareness survey undertaken by the MyCC to gauge awareness, not only of the law but also the MyCC’s existence, showed disappointing results. The survey revealed that only 6–7 per cent of the stakeholders actually knew about the Act or the Commission, and there were some states in the country where awareness was zero per cent. The only consolation to take from these results is that this is a problem that almost all commissions face. There will always be pockets of society that are yet to know about the Act or the Commission. Therefore, in 2014 we will strive to find creative forms of outreach programmes, as an informed policy environment and public awareness are critical to our enforcement efforts. Among the major issues that the Commission continues to face is the reluctance on the part of the SMEs, as well as associations, to accept the fact that the law is also applicable to them. More focused and informal discussions will be undertaken with them to understand their apprehension; in addition, more publications will be distributed to explain how the law will be applied to them and why compliance is a crucial issue they have to understand.
Enforcement activities, as we know, are at the core of any competition agency. As we are still a very young agency, the building of a strong enforcement team through provision of adequate and necessary training will continue. Working towards this goal, the MyCC’s enforcement team has been restructured to ensure focus and direction. Cases with the greatest impact from a consumer and economic perspective will be targets. Complaints that do not bring maximum benefit to consumers will not be pursued, while at the same time complainants are being made aware of the provision in the Act where private rights of action are available to them.
As academic awareness of competition law and policy is very low, building awareness and encouraging research and studies in this area is one of our key focal points. To this end, the MyCC launched the Research Grant Programme in late 2012 and has since awarded 23 successful recipients grants of 25,000 ringgit each. The purpose of this programme is both to create a body of research in this area and to stir interest in the subject matter, not only at research institutions but also among individuals who are keen to further their interest in this specialised area of study. These research materials will also assist the MyCC in the course of its investigations.
As we know, communication is vital for building a bridge between us and our stakeholders. The MyCC will thus concentrate on intensifying its media presence, both in print and electronic forms. However, for the media to be ‘a friend of the MyCC’, attention will be given to train individuals and make them fully understand the issues of competition law.
And finally, to be successful we need a team that is happy working in this environment. Therefore, we plan to provide a good financial management system that ensures effective use of our financial resources through efficiency and promptness in expenditure.We endeavour to provide a safe, supportive and better working environment for staff to ensure we maintain a motivated team, skill development and a good, reliable ICT service that supports the MyCC’s work.