Competition Council does not exclude any sector, its president says in interview with TAP TV

Tunis: President of the Competition Council, Judge Hassan Guizani, said that there are no sectors excluded from the Council’s intervention, which can impose a fine of up to 10% of the previous year’s turnover.

During an interview at the TAP television studio, Guizani gave details on the reality of competition in Tunisia, the main activities of the Competition Council based on the study of the market and the impact on consumers of the decisions to carry out automatic audits in certain sectors.

Speaking about financial penalties, Guizani added: “I do not say that the penalties are based on the size of the damage or the value of a transaction, the Council can adopt this when reducing. But there are institutions that may not be aware and sometimes admit it and the Council intervenes wisely.

He added that the sanctions take into account the circumstances of the institutions, knowing that the amount of the sanction can be reduced.

He pointed out that the Council can also ask the market or the institution to sto
p the practice or issue a decision to close an institution until the anti-competitive practice is stopped.

The Competition Council is a public body with legal personality, which enjoys full independence and impartiality and plays an advisory and judicial role.

The advisory role includes mandatory and voluntary consultations on competition matters and its opinions are not subject to appeal.

“The Council plays a judicial role and issues decisions that are subject to appeal. Its work is similar to that of the ordinary court system and includes a mixed panel of judges and specialists in competition and economic matters. The Council cooperates with the Ministry of Trade in the field of market research, which is both a priority and a working tool for the Council.”

The Council has a research structure based on rapporteurs who work under the supervision of a general rapporteur and have research and investigative powers similar to those of investigating judges. They are empowered to carry out investigations and us
e public authority, and their work ends with a decision to close an investigation referred to the Council.

Guizani pointed out that the Council can also issue a decision of a certain nature and take precautionary measures against any institution, and has absolute powers to take appropriate measures to avoid damage to the economy.

He explained that the precautionary measures remain in force until a decision is issued, pointing out that the Council’s decisions are issued after summons and pleadings and can be challenged before the Administrative Court.

Regarding the decisions that the Council can take, Guizani noted that the Competition Council can issue decisions with urgent effect, which are directly enforceable, regardless of the decision of the Court of Appeal.

He stressed that Council studies the market and takes note of all aspects of it, whether the official market or parallel markets. And the Council is obliged to “get to the truth and work with the Ministry of Trade to create a specialised database
to monitor prices”.

He pointed out that the studies allow the Council to identify the imbalance and that the Council intervenes either on the basis of petitions received from various sources or through an automatic commitment through a report by the General Rapporteur after witnessing violations.

He added that the complaint is referred to a department of the Council to examine the file, and if there is a serious suspicion, then the decision is made to automatically take over the file and carry out an investigation, whether by reaching proof of guilt or by the investigation leading to the conclusion that the practice is justified.

He emphasised that the Board has also developed an intervention strategy whenever a decision is made that has an impact on the market, as there are market investigation plans that have been developed according to a set strategy.

After completing its investigations, the Board considers and makes decisions that lead to a finding of guilt or innocence. It can also declare that it ha
s no jurisdiction or that the matter has nothing to do with competition.

He pointed out that the Council can reject the petition, but it intervenes through the automatic commitment mechanism and, in the case of a decision finding guilt, the Council expresses its opinion on whether or not to approve the penalty.

In response to a question about the impact of the Council’s recent decision on lawyers’ fees or the canned tuna market, Guizani noted that Law No. 36 of 2015 on the reorganisation of competition and prices aims to “maintain the general balance of the market and consumer welfare.” He stressed that the Council is working to maintain the general balance of the market and consumer welfare.

Guizani added that the Council is working to rebalance the market by putting an end to anti-competitive practices and establishing the principle of legitimate competition.

He pointed out that although the legislator has not defined competition, it is based on the principle of “freedom of prices and freedom of competi
tion” and has regulated infringements of competition. These include acts, alliances, explicit and implicit agreements that violate competition, as well as the formation of a consortium to raise prices and prevent market entry, dominance, discrimination and monopoly.

Source: Agence Tunis Afrique Presse




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