Jordan: Competition Directorate
The Jordanian experience in the field of competition began with the issuance of the Competition Law in August 2002 as a provisional law. It was approved as permanent law in September 2004, and was named Competition Law No. (33) of 2004. An amendment was made to the provisions of the law in 2011(the Law Amending Competition Law No. (18) of 2011) and is to be read with Competition Law No. (33) of 2004 as one law.
The Competition Law is based on free determination of prices in accordance with market mechanisms and principles of free competition, except for prices that are regulated by other laws and temporary price controls set by the government to cope with exceptional circumstances.
The main sections of the Law cover anticompetitive practices, abuse of dominant position and the regulation of mergers and acquisitions, ensuring fairness of economic transactions.
The Competition Law's scope is continually expanding to cover all economic activities in Jordan, as well as any economic activities occurring outside but having an effect in Jordan.
The Law exempted the following practices from being considered anticompetitive or abusive to dominant position:
- practices resulting from the implementation of an enforceable law;
- practices falling within the ambit of temporary measures instituted by the Council of Ministers to deal with exceptional circumstances, emergency situations or natural disasters;
- practices exempted by the minister of industry and trade, based on their positive outcomes and the public interest; and
- exemptions granted to achieve positive outcomes that are in the public interest and which may not be achieved without such exemptions (relevant enterprises should request to be granted this exemption in accordance with a designated form).
The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Supply had taken a set of procedures to ensure the activation of the law. The first step was the establishment of agencies made responsible for the implementation of provisions by the founding of the Competition Directorate, and including it within the organisational structure of the ministry, as well as the formation of the committee for competition affairs and coordination with the Judicial Council to nominate judges specialised in the field of competition.
The Competition Directorate at the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Supply is the Jordanian authority entitled to implement the Competition Law. The Directorate was founded on 18 December 2002. The Directorate, in coordination with the concerned authorities, has the following duties and powers:
- contributing to the setting of the competition general plan and legislation and studies relating thereto;
- working to promote, protect and encourage the culture of competition;
- gathering information to uncover practices that violate the rules of competition;
- conducting investigations into those practices it uncovers, or on the basis of complaints and claims that it receives, or those assigned to it by the competent courts; and preparing reports on its findings and presenting recommendations or reports to the minister or the Court, as the case may be;
- receiving and following up requests for mergers and acquisitions.
- receiving and following up requests for exemption;
- issuing clarifying opinions on matters relating to its activities, either unilaterally or upon the request of the enterprises; and
- cooperating with similar bodies outside the Kingdom for the purpose of exchanging general information and data on matters that relate to the execution of competition rules, to the extent allowed by international treaties and on the basis of reciprocity.
The organisational structure of the Directorate includes four sections to perform duties of the Directorate:
- the consultations and complaints section;
- the exemptions and concentration section;
- the studies and investigations section; and
- the competition policy section.
The director of competition may commission, in writing, any of the Directorate's officers who have been delegated by the minister to conduct the following:
- to enter, during working hours, commercial establishments and offices and stores in order to conduct the necessary inspections and searches;
- to view documents, records and files, including computer files, and to seize all that is necessary thereof, or copies of the above, in return for a notice of receipt, provided that all such seized materials be referred to in the transcript, and be returned after the end of the review thereof; and
- to conduct the necessary investigations and listen to the testimony of any person suspected of violating the provisions of this Law.
The director may, by virtue of the powers granted to him by the Law, request any person who has or may have knowledge of information relating to a violation of the provisions of this Law either to offer testimony or present whatever information, documents or records in his possession that are demanded from him.
The results of investigations into any violation shall be recorded in detailed reports, and appended to inspection transcripts and information and probative tools. Such report shall include a detailed analysis of the state of competition therein and its effect on market balance.
In the event that it has become evident to the minister upon the recommendation of the competition director that a violation to the provisions of Competition Law has been committed, he or she shall refer the violation to the public prosecutor; or he or she will decide to withhold the investigation temporarily or permanently, and inform the parties concerned.
The Court of First Instance has jurisdiction to hear cases related to any violation of the Competition Law, and its jurisdiction includes claims for damages arising out of these violations. Other violations of the provisions of the law shall be subject to the general rules of court jurisdiction.
For the purposes of hearing cases related to practices that are inconsistent with competition within the Court of First Instance, one or more specialised judges who have received special training shall be appointed, and their appointment shall be by decision of the Judicial Board.
The office of the attorney general shall be represented, in competition cases which fall within the jurisdiction of the court of first instance, by a specialised prosecutor general.
Cases relating to violations of the provisions of the Competition Law shall be instituted according to a complaint presented to the public prosecutors by the following parties, provided that the statements be appended to preliminary articles of proof:
• the minister, upon recommendation of the director or the request of any other official party;
• any enterprise from the private sector;
• licensed consumer protection associationsl
• any group of at least five consumers who have suffered harm;
• chambers of commerce and industry;
• professional and syndicate organisations; and
• sectoral regulatory authorities.
In all instances, the Ministry shall be a party in all competition cases and may submit any studies or comments to the court, and request to continue hearing such cases even where the parties have dropped their case or have settled their dispute, and it may also contest any decisions issued in these cases.
The court may assign the Competition Directorate to carry out the necessary investigations of the statements it has received from the parties, and the Directorate shall submit to it a report thereon within a set period of time.
Competition Affairs Committee
The Competition Affairs Committee is considered an advisory body that provides opinion and advice regarding the general plan and status of competition in different sectors. Also, the Committee examines the issues related to provisions of the Competition Law referred to the Committee by the minister, including the draft laws, competition-related regulations or those regulations that grant new advantages or exceptional rights.
The Committee was formed and is chaired by the minister of industry, trade and supply, with membership of:
- the secretary general of the Ministry of Industry and Trade (vice chairman);
- director general of the Insurance Commission;
- the chief executive officer of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission;
- the Land Transport Regulatory Commission's director general;
- the president of the Jordanian Chamber of Commerce;
- the president of the Jordanian Chamber of Industry;
- the president of the Consumer Protection Society; and
- three people with expertise and specialisation named by the Minister.
Summary of the Competition Directorate's 2016 activities
In 2016, the Competition Directorate handled 31 files, including all aspects stipulated in the Competition Law No. 33 of 2004 and its amendments.
The Directorate received 10 complaints submitted by institutions affected by anticompetitive practices in various economic sectors, including the food, health, aviation, hotels and machinery trade sectors. These complaints focused on selling below cost; discrimination between customers; and excessive pricing. The Directorate conducted the necessary studies and investigations, and found that a number of them did not violate the provisions of the law; one of the cases was referred to the public prosecutor, and the Directorate is still investigating three complaints.
Based on its role in investigating anticompetitive practices, the Directorate conducted nine investigations and studies in the markets for a number of goods and services, including construction materials, insurance, foodstuffs and stationery. The Directorate has taken direct measures to prevent price increases for a number of goods and services by stopping anticompetitive practices.
The Directorate also received seven advisory requests from various public and private Institutions on topics related to competition in the insurance, telecommunications, vegetables and fruits, engineering services, beverages, restaurants and poultry markets, in order to indicate the extent of violation of, or compatibility with, certain practices and decisions with the provisions of the Competition Law. The advisory opinion of the Competition Directorate contributed to avoidance of anticompetitive practices by private-sector institutions and to take into account the implications of competition in the market when making governmental decisions and actions.
The Competition Directorate also undertakes several procedures aimed at regulating the structure of the market by organising and monitoring mergers and acquisitions in order not to create or support a dominant position that harms competition. The Directorate has studied three operations; these studies have shown that the operations will not have a negative impact on competition. On the other hand, the Directorate dealt with two exception requests in the health and financial services sectors; one was granted an exception and the other was rejected.