Defining and Regulating Hardcore Cartels in Hong Kong: Agency Reconciling the Divergence between Legislators and International Standard
University of Pennsylvania Journal of Business Law, Vol. 20, Iss. 4, 2018
60 Pages Posted: 3 May 2018 Last revised: 19 Nov 2018
Date Written: 2018
In 2012, Hong Kong passed the Competition Ordinance, the region’s first cross-sector competition law. In the statue, the government introduced a legal term called “Serious Anti-competitive Conduct” which includes four conducts, namely price fixing, output restriction, market allocation and bid rigging. At a glance, this legal term is very similar to another term called “Hard Core Cartels” introduced by OECD in 1998. In fact, the two terms are different because “Hard Core Cartels” includes only the four conducts formed horizontally (e.g. between competitors) while “Serious Anti-Competitive Conduct” includes the four conducts formed both horizontally and vertically (e.g. between distributors and retailers). This created a divergence between international standard and Hong Kong legislators. Based on the definition of “Serious Anti-Competitive Conduct”, Hong Kong legislators formed a dual-track system by imposing differentiable statutory regulations to conducts that the legislators believed to be more and less serious. Thereafter, the local law enforcement agency created two more terms known as “Cartel Conduct” and “The Four Don’t” off the statue. This is identified as an attempt of the agency to reconcile the divergence. After reviewing the legislation history, this Comment suggested that the divergence was formed by ignorance when the Hong Kong government proposed to the legislators to introduce the term “Serious Anti-Competitive Conduct” in the statue in response to the concern of SMEs. Furthermore, this Comment analyzed the divergence based on rule of evidence developed in the U.S. judicial experience and suggested that the divergence is unjustified. Also, this Comment pointed out the limitations of the agency’s attempt to reconcile the divergence. This Comment concluded that the divergence and reconciliation all together unintendedly created more legal uncertainties and discouraged companies to form some agreements that may induce net pro-competitive effect. Thus, this Comment urged for amending the definition of “Serious Anti-Competitive Conduct” in Hong Kong’s Competition Ordinance.
Keywords: Hardcore Cartel; Hong Kong; Competition Ordinance; Competition Commission; Serious Anti-Competitive Conduct
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