DOJ forms task force vs. price fixing, cartels

President Benigno S. Aquino III receives a scale model of the 2-classroom school building presented by the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc., (FFCCCII), led by its president Angel Ngu, during the oath taking ceremony at the Rizal Hall of the Malacañan Palace on Tuesday (June 23, 2015). The Operation: Barrio Schools is the longest running and biggest private sector led development program focused on educational infrastructure. To date, some 4,933 school buildings – equivalent to 9,866 classrooms – have already been turned over to public schools nationwide, benefitting nearly one million schoolchildren. Also in photo is Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. (MNS Photo)

President Benigno S. Aquino III receives a scale model of the 2-classroom school building presented by the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc., (FFCCCII), led by its president Angel Ngu, during the oath taking ceremony at the Rizal Hall of the Malacañan Palace on Tuesday (June 23, 2015). The Operation: Barrio Schools is the longest running and biggest private sector led development program focused on educational infrastructure. To date, some 4,933 school buildings – equivalent to 9,866 classrooms – have already been turned over to public schools nationwide, benefitting nearly one million schoolchildren. Also in photo is Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. (MNS Photo)

MANILA, July 3 (Mabuhay) – The Department of Justice (DOJ) has formed a five-member task force to handle cases involving anti-competition practices like price fixing and cartels.

Making up the Task Force on Anti-Competitive Agreements and Cartels are five members from DOJ offices including the National Prosecution Service (NPS), Office of the Chief State Counsel and Office for Competition (OFC).

“Effective anti-cartel enforcement requires a dedicated unit equipped with the necessary tools and capacity to handle the complex nature of competition cases,” Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Friday.

De Lima added the DOJ has already recommended to the Supreme Court the designation of specialized courts to hear and decide on competition cases.

Justice Assistant Secretary Geronimo Sy, head of the DOJ Office for Competition, said the focus of the task force would be on cases involving price fixing, output restriction, market allocation, bid-rigging and similar anti- competitive agreements.

“The use of investigative strategies and techniques rounded on international best practices is key to enforcement,” Sy said.

NPS head Prosecutor General, meanwhile, said the creation of the task force was “an indication of the Department’s serious stance in the fight against the most harmful forms of business conduct.”

The creation of the task force came on the heels of the ratification by Congress on 10 June 2015 of the Philippine Competition Act that penalizes bad market behavior and abuse of dominant position. The DOJ said this would further strengthen the competition reforms which the DOJ-OFC has consistently supported and advocated.

Under the proposed law, the DOJ-Office for Competition is assigned to investigate cartels that are considered criminal actions.

In the past, the DOJ-OFC has confirmed that the spike in garlic prices was caused by collusion between government officials and a garlic importer who allegedly cornered nearly all of the commodity’s supply.

The office also later found out the same scheme plaguing the onion trade in the country.

In September last year, the DOJ-OFC also required telecommunication companies to indicate and highlight the minimum speed of their internet services in their advertisements and promotions.

Advertising only the maximum speed of their Internet services allowed ISPs to provide an actual connection speed that was slower than advertised, and would usually result in confusing their customers, said the DOJ-OFC.

The office also earlier investigated the controversial P4.15 per kilowatt-hour rate increase by Meralco in late 2013. The issue is currently subject of a pending case before the Supreme Court. (MNS)

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