By Meriba Tulo – EMTV News, Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea’s competition laws are now being tested with a case by the country’s competition watchdog set to go to trial.
The PNG Independent Consumer Competition Commission (ICCC) had initiated a case against Steamships Trading Company and others over what it viewed as an anti-competitive action, following the acquisition of shares in Consort Shipping. Although the ICCC filed court proceedings in 2011, it was not until the 27th of March this year that the court handed down a decision to allow the matter to proceed to trial, marking it the first time for the ICCC Act to be tested in court.
According to ICCC Commissioner & CEO, Paulus Ain, in 2009, the actions taken by Mainport Liner Services Ltd (then a subsidiary of Steamships trading Company Ltd) to acquire majority shares in a competing shipping company, Consort Express Lines Ltd, through Kambang Holdings Ltd had been anti-competitive. Prior to this acquisition, Steamships, Kambang, and Anthon Lee Transport Services each had equal 33.3% shareholding in Consort. As a result of the acquisition of shares in Consort Shipping by Steamships, the ICCC commenced court proceedings in November 10th 2011; these actions deemed appropriate to protect consumers from business acquisitions that may lessen competition.
On November 11th 2011, The Steamships Group then filed a motion to dismiss the proceedings for being frivolous and for being instituted incorrectly under the National Court Rules. A ruling on this motion was handed down on March 27th this year, paving the way for the matter to go to trial. With the case now going to trial, it marks the first time the ICCC Act will be tested in a Court of Law – more specifically Section 69 of the ICCC Act which deals with Business Acquisitions.
According to the ICCC, the developments and subsequent outcomes of this case will have a bearing on the ICCC on how it deals with matters of this nature in future.