Competition in the CSME vibrant – CCC report

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(CARICOM Competition Commission Press Release) The CARICOM Competition Commission (Commission) has published its first “State of Competition Enforcement Report for the period 2019 – 2021”. Even though competition legislation is present in only four Member States of the CSME (CARICOM Single Market and Economy), the report posits that during the review period, competition enforcement and advocacy in the region remained vibrant, as 37 cases of anticompetitive business conduct were investigated and 38 merger transactions reviewed.

Competition authorities in the CSME also engaged in 112 competition advocacy activities including market studies, competition assessments, policy briefs, and training workshops aimed at sensitising stakeholders about competition law and policy. Whilst noting the uptake of consumer protection legislation by CSME Member States with only three Member States outstanding, the report, however, highlights the lack of competition frameworks established in many CSME Member States as an obstacle to the full implementation of the Community Competition Policy envisaged under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas 2001.

Competition and consumer concerns in the CSME also arose during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Commission is pleased to advise on the publication of two reports on consumer issues from the period 2020 to 2022.

The “Report on Food Prices during the Covid-19 Pandemic” is the output of information collected and assessed on an agreed “regional basket of goods”, from a sample of 12 CSME Member States from 2019-2021 through the Commission’s COVID-19 Steering Committee. It shows that food prices in most of the Member States sampled increased in the initial stages of the pandemic. However, the increase in food prices differed across the countries in terms of its magnitude and duration for the first year of the pandemic. The report also points to a resurgence in food prices from June 2021 to December 2021, which coincides with higher cumulative COVID-19 cases in the Member States. Considering these developments, the report recommends collaboration strategies to ensure food prices in the region remain competitive and the conduct of market studies to better understand the demand and supply factors associated with these markets.

The report “Flying to the Future – a Study on the consumer Side of the CSME air transportation industry” takes a closer look at the experiences of a sample of airline customers within the region with obtaining refunds from airlines, particularly arising out of the cancellations of flights during the early stages of the pandemic. The report shows that 69.1% of the airline customers surveyed who had their flights cancelled for travel between March and June 2020, were not informed by their airline about the availability of refunds, while 50% stated the airline did not inform them about travel vouchers. The report also discusses the legal and policy framework for air passenger rights at the international level and within the CSME and highlights that the regulatory framework at the national and regional levels diverge from international best practices regarding: (a) institutional frameworks to protect airline customers; (b) mechanism for redress for airline customers due to service disruptions; and (c) mechanism to address the lack of information provided by airlines to their customers. Recommendations for improving the consumer protection framework regarding air passenger rights are also provided.

To access the full reports, you can visit our website at www.caricomcompetitioncommission.com or our Facebook or LinkedIn pages. For further information, you can also contact us at competition@ccc.sr.

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