Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Centre for the Protection of Competition and Prevention of Monopoly

Under the Protection of Competition and the Prevention of Monopoly Law (the “Competition Law”), Sultani Decree 67/2014, the role of the Competition Authority was originally assigned to the Public Authority for Consumer Protection (the “PACP”) and specifically to the Department of Competition and Monopoly Prevention.  On 9 January 2018, the Centre for the Protection of Competition and Prevention of Monopoly (the “Centre”) was established by Sultani Decree 2/2018 (the “CPC Law”) and took over the role of the Competition Authority from PACP.  The establishment of a dedicated Centre emphasises the importance of competition in the Oman business landscape.  The main purpose of the Centre is to monitor the application and implementation of the Competition Law and to promote free competition in the Omani market.
The Centre falls under the supervision of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the CPC Law provides for the appointment of a Chairman, Board of Directors and CEO.  Accordingly, the Centre has recently appointed the Board of Directors under the Chairmanship of His Highness Dr Adham Al Said.
The Chairman of the Centre is appointed, inter alia, to draft the Executive Regulations of the Competition Law, which will clarify and determine the actual applicability of a number of provisions.  Such Regulations will be subject to approval of the Board of Directors of the Centre and of the Ministerial Cabinet.  Following the issue of the Regulations, the Centre will be able to pursue its objectives in a better defined legal framework.  The implementation of a number of procedures (including the temporary exemption which may be considered by the Board of the Centre whenever such exemption pursues higher interests by encouraging development and competition) is entrusted to the Regulations.  We have no indication of their envisaged content; therefore, in the current circumstances and pending the publication of the Regulations, the only procedure that appears sufficiently defined is the request of approval for acts leading to economic concentration.  We expect that until the Regulations (or other applicable legislation) are issued, the Centre would not be in a position to exercise some of its competences.
The objectives are set out in Chapter Two of the CPC Law and include:  protect the market from anti-competitive practices, publish and promote studies that focus on monopolistic practices that affect the free market, undertake measures regarding the prevention of practices that are in violation of competition, study the suggestions and recommendations received by the Centre with regards to the protection of competition and the prevention of monopoly, and represent the Sultanate of Oman in regional and international conferences and meetings related to the Centre’s scope of work.
To share information on its activities, the Centre has published an official website which sets out as the general goals of the Centre:  (a) supporting domestic companies in order to enable them to compete in the international market and (b) attracting foreign investment to Oman.
Article 17 of the Competition Law states that any person may report to the Centre any agreement, procedure or practice which may be in breach of the provisions of the Law.  The Centre is responsible for receiving complaints pertaining to anti-competition and monopoly practices and, in connection with each complaint, conduct research, investigations and evidence collection.  The penalties stated in Chapter Four of the Competition Law are enforced by the personnel appointed jointly by the competent authority and the Chairman of the Centre.
As of today, there is little information available on actual proceedings.  The most important indication of how competition laws are interpreted and implemented worldwide can be found in anti-trust judgment and other similar decisions, which are customarily published.  The Competition Law provides that in the event of a violation, “the final decisions and provisions shall be published in two daily newspapers, one of which shall be Arabic, or by any means of advertising at the expense of the violator.”  This implies that, over time, it should be possible to follow the evolution of the decisions of the Centre and possibly the courts where applicable.