Competition Commission engaged professional bodies on Competition Order 2015

Photo Credit: PASB
Categories: Contract, Management & Professional Practice
April 24, 2019

More than 20 professionals from the legal and construction sector were introduced to the Competition Order 2015 in a dialogue session organised by the Department of Competition and Consumer Affairs of the Department of Economic Planning and Development (JPKE), Ministry of Finance and Economy, in collaboration with the Darussalam Enterprise (DARe). The professionals in attendance were from the Brunei Law Society and the Surveyors, Engineers and Architects Institution (PUJA).  

The dialogue session featuring the application of Competition Order on professional bodies was opened by the Chairman of the Competition Commission of Brunei Darussalam, Yang Berhormat Dayang Nik Hafimi binti Abdul Haadii. Also present was Commission Member, Yang Mulia Awang Mohammad Harris bin Brig. Jen (B) Dato Paduka Haji Ibrahim. In her opening remarks, the Chairman of the Competition Commission of Brunei Darussalam highlighted that the session acts as a platform to create awareness and understanding on the Competition Order and exchange views to ensure that conducts of professional bodies are in compliance with the Order, towards creating a fair and healthy market in Brunei Darussalam.  

The Acting Director of the Department of Competition and Consumer Affairs began the dialogue with a brief presentation on the objectives and the key prohibitions of the Competition Order including the functions and powers of the Commission highlighted besides the investigation power are such as power for the Commission to request data or information in conducting market study to understand the function of a certain market. This is an important process in identifying potential issues as not all issues in the market place is within the ambit of the competition law. A market study may help to provide remedies including policy recommendations to the policy makers in addressing certain market structure issues.  

Businesses including professionals are to set their fees or charges independently. The session shared several cases drawing from ASEAN member states to help participants in understanding the application of the law, including a case drawn from Singapore on proposed Guidelines of Fees by a medical association. The medical association claimed that fees guidelines were intended to promote price transparency in helping patients to be aware of medical charges. The competition authority, however, ruled the case as anticompetitive as it can create price convergence and restrict independent pricing among medical practitioners. The competition authority, therefore, advised the association to work with the Ministry of Health to explore other options to achieve improved price transparency by introducing itemised billing and publishing past record of medical bills in the Ministry’s official website, to act as reference to patients. In general,  scale of fees set by professionals or associations are prohibited under the anti-competitive agreements.

Further understanding into the application of the Order on professional bodies was led by Dr Hassan Qaqaya, competition advisor. Dr Qaqaya highlighted on the Dos and Donts for professional bodies that can help minimize the risk of issues arising under the Order. Attention were drawn to professionals on the need to act responsibly to avoid liabilities and potential infringement of the Competition Order. Amongst the risk areas that were flagged include exchange of information about future business plan and strategies, future prices, certification and standard setting, code of conducts, as well as the need for professional bodies to adopt compliance programme for their members.  

The presentations were followed by an interactive question and answer session for professional bodies to share their concerns and obtain clarifications regarding the conducts prohibited in the law. The session concluded with the Chairman of the Competition Commission of Brunei Darussalam handing out a number of competition advocacy materials, including the Competition Guidelines for Businesses and Dos and Don’ts for Associations posters, to the representatives of professional bodies.  

The Competition Commission of Brunei Darussalam was established on the 1 August 2017, as an independent body that is mandated to promote business competition in Brunei Darussalam economic landscape through the enforcement of the Competition Order 2015. The Department of Competition and Consumer Affairs was established on

the same day as the secretariat, administrative and investigative arms of the Competition Commission.

For any inquiries and request for briefings on the Competition Order 2015, please contact the Department of Competition and Consumer Affairs in the Department of Economic Planning and Development, Ministry of Finance and Economy through email at [email protected] or call 2233344 extension 341 or 643.

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The participants during The Competition Commission of Brunei Darussalam's dialogue session for the Competition Order 2015

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Chairman of The Competition Commission of Brunei Darussalam, Yang Berhormat Dayang Nik Hafimi binti Abdul Haadii, presenting a token of appreciation to PUJA's representative, Haji Mohamad Zin bin Salleh (Vice-President and Chairman under the Engineer Division)