East Africa competition watchdog begins operations, market studies ongoing
The EastAfrican has learnt that the Authority which is based in Arusha has begun its work, although the public are yet to be notified when they can start engaging with it as provided for in the EAC Competition Act, 2006 and the EAC Competition Regulations, 2010.
The director- general of the Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) Wang’ombe Kariuki had earlier raised concerns over the creation of cartels among firms operating across the borders with a view of exploiting consumers.
“There is a serious problem of cartels as some of these companies operate across the region,” he said.
The operationalistaion of the EAC Competition Authority comes even as some partner states struggle to enact competition laws and set up institutions to deal with trade malpractices and anti-competitive behaviours in the market.
Burundi has a competition law and establishment of the national competition agency is awaiting approval while Rwanda has a competition law while the establishment of a national competition agency was approved and gazetted by Parliament. South Sudan and Uganda have both drafted competition Bills.
The EAC Competition Authority handles matters with a regional dimension and therefore there is no obligation for partner states to have enacted competition laws and set up institutions to enable the Authority to implement its mandate.
The EAC Competition Act 2006 which came into force in December 2014 mandates the Authority to promote and protect fair competition in the Community and to provide for consumer welfare. The Act prohibits among others anti-competitive trade practices and abuse of market dominance.
The Authority has appointed five commissioners — each partner state nominated one commissioner. The Commissioners were considered and appointed by the Council of Ministers and were sworn into office in 2016.
In 2015, Kenya launched investigations into the conduct, practices and procedures of trade associations, which have come under the spotlight for colluding with its members to fix consumer prices.
This was after it was established that despite clear provisions in the Kenyan competition law, many trade associations continued to have rules, practices and procedures that contravene the Act.
Individuals found engaging in restrictive trade practices are, if convicted, liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or to a fine not exceeding $107,526.88.
Trade associations have been blamed for being at the centre of many cartels, which are partly responsible for the high prices of goods and services in Kenya.