Guyana’s Competition Commission strives to stamp out anti-competitive behavior in the world of business

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Stimulating economic productivity and protecting consumer welfare can be done by ensuring fair competition exists in the market place. But where do businesses turn to for meaningful assistance when this environment is not maintained due to the anti-competitive behavior of its dominant counterpart?
Entrepreneurs are urged not to despair, but rather, take their plights to the guardian angels of nondiscriminatory trading: the Competition and Consumer Affairs Commission (CCAC). It has its office in the National Exhibition Site, in Sophia, Georgetown.
In April 2006, Guyana’s Parliament passed a Competition and Fair Trading Act, which covers offences such as price fixing, conspiracy, bid rigging, misleading advertisements, anti-competitiveness, abuse of dominant positions, and resale price maintenance.
This Act governs the work of the commission. The offences listed in the legislation are normally handled by CCAC and the Consumer Affairs Department (CAD) in the Ministry of Business.
The latter is considered the first option to address consumer complaints through discussions. But once this does not work, the commission, which became operational in September 2011, steps in to provide further advice and assistance with the legal side of the matter.
The Commissioners of the competition commission represent four broad stakeholder groups: the private sector, the public sector, the legal profession and the consumer representative bodies. The Chairman of the commission is Mr. Ramesh Dookoo from the private sector.
The commission also advises the appropriate Minister on matters relating to the operation of the Act where it deems necessary or when requested by the Minister.
The CCAC also has a responsibility to keep in constant contact with competition authorities of other member states to ensure the application of the local law where it deems fit. This alliance is effective as it serves to identify and thwart anti-competitive conduct and exchange information relating to such.
The competition body is also empowered to approach the High Court to impeach persons or companies it finds to be in breach of the Act. The punishment, according to the law, can see defaulters being fined from $20,000 to $1,000,000, with an added imprisonment sentence of up to one year.
There have been a number of successfully challenged cases by the commission in the court.
According to the chairman, the competition commission is not in the habit of waiting for complaints from aggrieved businesses. From time to time, it would carry out its own checks for companies breaking the law.
Price fixing, where companies come to an illegal agreement to not sell goods or services below a certain price, is just one of the matters it has taken the initiative to address.
The Commission has also noted that several businesses are in the habit of conspiring to reduce the supply of items to create a shortage, thereby allowing for the increase in prices.
The Act is clear about this practice being prohibited as it says that, “No enterprise shall conspire, combine, agree or arrange with another person to: (a) limit unduly the facilities for transporting, producing, manufacturing, storing or dealing in any goods or supplying any service; (b) prevent, limit or lessen unduly, the manufacture or production of any goods or the provision of services or to enhance unreasonably the price thereof; (c) lessen unduly, competition in the production, manufacture, purchase, barter, sale, supply, rental or transportation of any goods or services or in the price of insurance on persons or property; or (d) otherwise unduly restrain or injure competition.”
As for bid-rigging, the Act also says that, “it is unlawful for two or more enterprises to enter into an agreement whereby one or more of them agree to undertake not to submit a bid in response to a call or request for bids or tenders; or as bidders or tenders they submit, in response to a call or request, bids or tenders that are arrived at by agreement between or among themselves.”
There have also been several complaints about misleading advertisements by some companies who are obviously desperate to do anything it takes to grab a consumer’s attention.
Section 42. (1) of the Act says that, “An enterprise shall not, in pursuance of trade and for the purpose of promoting, directly or indirectly, make a representation to the public, by any means that is false or misleading or likely to be misleading in a material respect in the form of a statement, warranty or guarantee of performance, efficacy or length of life of goods or services that is not based on an adequate and proper test thereof, the proof of which lies on the person making the representation.”
Companies and consumers are advised that complaints to the commission must be received in writing and addressed to the Chairman of the Commission, Ramesh Dookoo, at its Sophia Office.
Dookoo emphasized that it is always open and ready to receive matters on inequitable trading practices and promises to make a significant effort to investigate matters, as provided under the Competition and Fair Trading Act (2006).

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