The Fair Trading Commission (FTC) has commenced investigations into the poultry, telecommunications and hospitality industries in an effort to determine if any of them is involved in anticompetitive practices.
Word of this has come from Director of Fair Competition Antonio Thompson, who said consumers would be given a chance in the coming weeks to share their views on some areas, including pricing and quality.
Addressing the FTC’s tenth annual training programme at Accra Beach Hotel today, Thompson said the Fair Competition Division was “really and truly driving the poultry study”, while he was liaising with the Consumer Protection Division on the probes into the hospitality and telecoms sectors.
“We do market studies. We go into markets and we try to find out what is happening in the market? Is there anything stopping or inhibiting competition?” Thompson told participants.
The fair competition agency had said last April that it had commenced a study on the agriculture sector with a focus on the poultry industry.
“The focus is on examining the key inputs into the sector and exploring the type of relationships which exist,” it said then.
When pressed by Barbados TODAY on the development, Thompson refused to provide details, but said poultry producers and other stakeholders had already been contacted and the regulatory body would have to go back to those stakeholders for “a little bit more detail”.
“Really, what is in the works now is to have a survey instrument go out to the public and notify them that we are having a study and we are going to be asking them for some information, essentially how they view the market, how they perceive the poultry market to be going,” he said.
The fair competition director said the consumer protection agency would generally receive a lot of queries regarding anti-competitiveness or abuse of dominance, with the latter being more frequent.
“At this time, I know for example, we would have received queries with respect to persons asking us if this particular product is excessive in terms of the price or if it is predatory pricing by one company charging a lower price than what is really the actual cost. So those are the normal queries and complaints that we receive. As they come in we look at them, we evaluate them and determine if we need to launch an investigation or not,” he explained.
The FTC official said there were only “one or two queries on pricing” since the increase last year in the controversial National Social Responsibility Levy, and nothing like the “big spike as people might have expected”.
During the start of the two-day competition law and policy seminar, which included mostly attorneys, Thompson told the participants that the FTC would continue its advocacy role in an effort to maintain and promote fair competition.
He said the FTC was committed to prohibiting practices that restricted or threatened competition, adding that the agency would continue to ensure that all enterprises were given the opportunity to participate comfortably in the marketplace.
Thompson, who was careful to steer clear of the sale of the Barbados National Terminal Company Limited to the Sir Kyffin Simpson-led Sol Group, which is currently the subject of litigation, also touched on the topic of mergers.
He said prior to 2013 Barbados had witnessed only one merger, that of Digicel and Cingular Wireless in 2006, following the December 2005 FTC approval.
However, he said, the number has climbed since.
“After 2013 I don’t know what happened. From the beginning of 2013 onward, I can say that we have had about ten or 12 instances where we have been involved in merger review activities. That particular aspect has really stretched us and made the commission continue to grow,” he said.