ISLAMABAD -  A parliamentary committee on Tuesday directed the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) to propose amendments in the Competition Act, 2010 for its strengthening and fostering competition in order to protect consumers from anti-competitive practices.

The Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue, which met under the chairmanship of Qaiser Ahmad Sheikh, has noted that CCP should be vigilant against cartelisation and anti-competitive behaviour. After getting briefed by CCP Chairperson Vadiyya Khalil, the committee suggested that Competition Act, 2010 needed amendments for affective functioning of the commission besides giving force of law to its punitive actions against anyone found in anti-competition practices. The committee further directed the CCP to adopt aggressive communication strategy to aware the consumers against anti-competitive practices. The Committee further directed CCP to provide the list of the pending litigation of different economic sectors in the courts.

The CCP chairperson apprised the committee about the prohibitions that CCP enforces under the Act which mainly encompass check on abuse of dominance, anti competitive agreements, deceptive marketing practices, mergers and acquisitions which subsequently reduced competition. She informed that CCP could enforce prohibitions through various measures and issues remedial measures and imposes penalties, however, majority of the penalties were challenged in courts. She also informed about the advocacy and research functions of the CCP.

Giving the numbers on CCP’s performance, Vadiyya submitted that since October 2, 2007, CCP has completed 69 enquiries, passed 83 enforcement orders, and imposed over Rs26 billion in penalties in matters related to anti-competitive behaviour. She further stated that CCP has reviewed 579 merger and acquisition transactions, issued 666 exemptions, issued 29 policy notes and opinions, and held over 109 advocacy related events.

She further said that in the past two calendar years, CCP had completed 23 inquiries, conducted 53 hearings, issued 21 enforcement orders, imposed Rs445,250,000 in penalties, given 133 exemption, reviewed 152 merger transactions, and held over 60 advocacy and capacity building events.

Talking about challenges, she explained that while the Act allowed businesses to challenge CCP’s orders before the Competition Appellate Tribunal and thereafter before the Supreme Court of Pakistan, those penalised by CCP preferred to challenge the constitutionality of the Act and the power of the Parliament to make this law before the High Courts. She further stated that while this trend has declined recently and undertakings are approaching the Competition Appellate Tribunal, there are numerous cases pending adjudication before various High Courts since 2008.

Earlier, the Statistics Division secretary briefed the committee about the working and performance of the Division and its attached departments. He also briefed the committee on the preparation for holding of national census. The secretary apprised that Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) had been mandated to conduct national census in March, 2017 throughout the country in two phases.

He further informed that in compliance to the decision of Council of Common Interest, PBS had geared up to take-up this national assignment and had completed most of the arrangements that include coordination meetings with provincial authorities, setting up of district census offices, appointment and training of field staff and publicity campaign for the awareness of the general masses. He informed the Committee that compilation and tabulation of collected data would be completed in seven months, however, summary of the census would available in two months.

A delegation from Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) also attended the meeting. The LCCI president apprised the committee about the industrial activity in the Punjab and problems of the Industrial sector. He suggested that a national industrial policy should be formulated and new avenues should be explored to increase exports. He also suggested for incentivising local industrial sector and inclusion of local investors in the Special Economic Zones. The committee appreciated the concerns of the industrial sector and assured them that their concerns would be taken up at the appropriate forum.

The meeting was attended by Member of National Asembly Rana Shamim Ahmed Khan, Daniyal Aziz, Muhammad Pervaiz, Malik Mian Abdul Mannan, Shaza Fatima Khawaja, Leila Khan, Asad Umar, Abdul Rashid Godil, Statistics Division secretary, Finance Division additional secretary, CCP chairperson and representatives from the departments concerned.