New trade competition bill proposed

New trade competition bill proposed

The trade competition commission will face a major overhaul under the new trade competition bill approved by reform councillors on Tuesday.

Thailand has an antitrust law for 16 years but it has failed to take action against any company, prompting for the need for reforms. 

The bill redefines "business operators" to cover companies, partnerships and juristic persons in the same group.

The term "companies, partnership or juristic persons in the same group" was also rewritten to cover more business types. The definition of a market-dominating business operator was also revised to take into account market competition. The Trade Competition Commission will issue an order giving the definition of such businesses. 

The bill stipulates the commission must be independent and its members screened by a panel. The list will then be approved by the prime minister.

The commission will comprise seven members, aged 45-70. They will serve a six-year term, renewable by not more than two times for a total of 12 consecutive years. They will be chosen by a nine-member screening committee.

Under the existing law, the commission is chaired by the Commerce Minister. The deputy minister is vice-chairman. Its 8-12 members are experts appointed by the cabinet, half of whom must come from the private sector. 

The new bill will give the commission the status of a government unit and the independence as a juristic person.

It will have a free hand in terms of personnel, budget and operation. While it receives some budget from the government, it can collect revenue on its own to cover expenses.

As for punishments, a company found to have violated the trade competition law will be subject to a fine of 9 million baht from 6 million in the existing law.

A jail term was scrapped for collusion but administrative penalties are increased.

Violation of the commission's order will result in a fine equivalent to not more than 20% of sales.

Krirkrai Jirapaet, chairman of the reform panel on agriculture, industries, commerce tourism and services which drafted the bill, said: "If the bill is passed, the country will have a modern tool to monitor and promote trade competition in line with the dynamic business environment.

"Small operators will not be taken advantage of and state enterprises competing with companies will no long have an edge," he said.

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