COMPETITION COMMISSION IN MAURITIUS ADDRESSES COLLABORATION AMONG BUSINESSES IN RESPONSE TO THE PANDEMIC
On 30 June 2020, the Executive Director of the Competition Commission (Commission) initiated a temporary Guidance Programme, under which Mauritian businesses wishing to collaborate in response to the COVID-19 crisis, may approach the Commission for guidance on whether their proposed collaboration complies with competition law provisions.
The Competition Act 25 of 2007 (Competition Act) prohibits competitor firms from engaging in conduct which significantly prevents, restricts or distorts competition and specifically the acts of price fixing, market division, bid rigging and restrictions on supply. Firms in a vertical relationship are also precluded from engaging in the act of resale price maintenance.
In a communiqué issued by the Commission earlier this year (accessible here), the Commission acknowledged the disastrous economic effects of the COVID-19 crisis and that the conduct prohibited in terms of the Competition Act may create uncertainty around business collaborations during these exceptional times.
In its communiqué, the Commission assured businesses that competition law enforcement would not unduly constrain or impede critical cooperation, on condition that the cooperation was for consumer benefit and in the public interest, and further, that the cooperation did not continue for longer than was necessary.
The Commission’s temporary Guidance Programme specifically applies to the types of contraventions indicated above, and businesses who wish to collaborate are encouraged to approach the Commission ahead of implementing their collaboration plans and on condition that the proposed collaboration is in direct response to the COVID-19 crisis.
The Commission explained that any guidance provided by it will be informal and non-binding, and issued only on the basis of information put before it, without it having to pursue an independent investigation or undertaking an extensive market or technical analysis.
In order to ensure timeous market responses, the Commission indicated that it would fast track its review of any proposed collaborations and it would aim to turn around its guidance within 21 working days. Importantly, the Guidance Programme operates on a temporary basis only, and the Commission indicated that the programme would fall away on 11 December 2020.
Details of the Commission’s Guidance Programme may be found on its website (accessible here).