Printed in the Business Monday newspaper on March 28th, 2011
The Fair Trading Commission, and more specifically the Fair Competition Act seeks to ensure that all Barbadians enjoy the benefits of competition, namely competitive prices, product choice and quality services. In order to assist in achieving these objectives, the Commission endeavours to inform and educate businesses about the benefits of a competitive and fair process and their obligations in ensuring that this process is protected. Specifically, under the Act, the Commission has a responsibility to make available to persons engaged in business, general information with respect to their rights and obligations regarding matters which might affect their interests.
In executing this task, the Commission has developed advocacy
programmes, where staff liaise with and make presentations to the
members and prospective members of the business community. To date, the
Commission has organised or been a part of approximately 15 seminars all
aimed at highlighting the role the Competition Act plays in ensuring
“fair play” among businesses and ensuring that these businesses are
aware of competition legislation.
One of the initiatives of the Commission is a two-day training
workshop entitled “Competition Law and Policy”, which caters
specifically to the business community and is aimed at exposing persons
to the basic principles associated with competition policy and
anti-competitive conduct. In 2010, the Deputy Director of the Bureau of
Competition at the US Federal Trade Commission (USFTC) was the main
facilitator of the seminar and he educated participants on many aspects
of competition policy, namely, the harm of anti-competitive agreements,
abuses of dominance, and anti-competitive mergers. The business
community was well represented as representatives from areas such as
retail, travel, broadcasting and manufacturing were in attendance and
participated actively in discussions.
This year’s workshop is the third of its kind hosted by the
Commission. It will again be entitled “Competition Law & Policy” and
will take place on March 30 and 31. At the end of the workshop persons
will have a greater insight into the issues specific to competition
policy and also have a better understanding of what is involved in
investigating anti-competitive conduct. The seminar will include a
presentation on regional anti-competitive conduct and will again feature
a representative from the USFTC. Staff will also present on related
topics, providing local examples of anti-competitive practices.
The Commission’s responsibility to educate and inform businesses means
that it seeks to collaborate with organisations such as the Small
Business Association (SBA) and the Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme (YES),
in order to reach more of the business community.
In the latter part of 2009 the Commission also presented at the monthly
meeting of the Small Business Association, with the topic “Compliance
with Competition Law: Competing Equitably in the Market Place”. The
presentation focused on the objectives of competition law and how it can
relate to small businesses. It also looked at how the Commission
investigates a complaint and makes decisions on the matter and why small
businesses must be aware of the various anti-competitive practices.
There was significant feedback from the presentation and the Commission
has since followed-up on queries posed where potentially
anti-competitive conduct may have been identified. For the past two
years, the Commission has also continued to work closely with the SBA on
panel discussions and subsequent meetings, all with the aim of
identifying and eradicating unfair business practices in these sectors.
As the world becomes more integrated through a host of
international trade agreements, competitive pressures on businesses in
both local and international markets will increase. It is therefore
imperative for businesses to be aware of the challenges that lay ahead
and to have an understanding of how to compete effectively in this new
environment. It is against this background that the Commission continues
to develop its advocacy programme to ensure the exposure of a
substantial number of businesspersons over time to the basic concepts of
Competition Law and Policy and to the issues and competitive challenges
likely to arise in this area.
The Commission has also extended
its advocacy to the schools. Tertiary institutions were identified along
with sixth-form secondary schools as part of the advocacy programme and
to date the Commission has visited all the tertiary institutions. As
prospective members of the business community, it is believed that
information relating to competition among business would indeed be
relevant to them.
The Commission sees advocacy as imperative to the development of a
culture of effective competition where businesses are aware of
potential anti-competitive practices and can take steps to avoid
becoming a perpetrator or a victim of these practices.