As competition authorities in the ASEAN region ramp up on their technical capacities ahead of planned competition policy and law harmonisation in 2025, it is becoming commonplace that they undertake investigations or review transactions that overlap in nature. With closer economic integration between ASEAN member states, it is anticipated that competition investigations and transactions will increasingly involve identical companies in the ASEAN region.
For example, the merger between Grab and Uber which triggered an investigation by the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) in March 2018 also sparked preliminary market inquiries and investigations by other ASEAN competition authorities, namely the KPPU (Indonesia’s competition authority), the Malaysia Competition Commission, the Philippine Competition Commission and Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade Competition and Consumer Protection Department.
Enforcement cooperation has taken greater prominence, with cross-border cases becoming more common in the region in recent times. Whilst enforcement cooperation is not new to the region – the CCCS has driven cooperation initiatives for a number of years – cross-border M&A transactions like the Grab/Uber merger have catalysed cross-border enforcement engagements amongst ASEAN competition authorities. It is clear that initiatives that encourage enforcement cooperation and which facilitate the exchange of information between authorities have been identified as key to enabling authorities to better deal with cross-border cases.
At the bilateral cooperation level, the CCCS and the KPPU concluded an MoU to facilitate cooperation on competition enforcement between the two agencies in August 2018. This is the first MoU on enforcement cooperation of competition law between the CCCS and an ASEAN competition authority. The KPPU expects that the MoU will become “a reference for cooperation authorities in the ASEAN region.”
At the regional level, in August 2018 the ASEAN economic ministers endorsed a regional cooperation framework, which serves as a set of guidelines for ASEAN Member States to cooperate on competition cases. Carrying that torch as the most recent Chair for the ASEAN Experts Group on Competition (AEGC), the CCCS led a number of cooperation engagements and initiatives amongst ASEAN competition authorities. In October 2018, the AEGC announced the establishment of the ASEAN Competition Enforcers’ Network (ACEN) to facilitate cooperation on competition cases and to serve as a platform to better handle cross-border cases in the region. At the inaugural ACEN meeting, the agencies wasted no time in discussing recent ongoing cases.
How we can help
Without careful management from the outset, merger control in ASEAN can disrupt your M&A transaction plans and timetables. Similarly, it can be tricky to manage investigations and leniency applications involving cross-border cartels. But, we are well-placed to assist you.
Our competition practice comprises a team that boasts extensive experience working at the CCCS. Harikumar and Lip Hang share a combined competition law enforcement experience of 16 years at the CCCS. We advise on all aspects of competition law in Singapore, providing specialist competition expertise right from the start, including identifying and dealing with any challenges along the way, to minimise potential threats to your business operations. From carrying out initial market analysis to preparing submissions and dealing with the CCCS, we will drive the engagement with the CCCS and other ASEAN authorities in a strategic manner.
We also have in-house competition economic expertise and have developed close relationships with specialist economists. In appropriate cases, we will work seamlessly with them to develop your case through dedicated analysis and robust economic evidence. OC Queen Street’s competition practice is part of the Osborne Clarke’s wider international network. Our competition practice understands the ASEAN competition law landscape, while Osborne Clarke’s teams in Europe have the expertise to assist our clients who require advice and representations at the national level or before the European Commission.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you like to discuss how these developments may potentially affect your business operations in Singapore and the region.