By Stephen Crosswell and Tom Jenkins of Baker McKenzie
The Hong Kong Government has announced that it will provide extra dedicated funding of HK$200 million (approximately $25 million) to the Hong Kong Competition Commission (HKCC), to enable it bring cases to the Competition Tribunal against businesses suspected of violating the Competition Ordinance. This is in addition to the annual grant which the Government gives to the Commission, which the Government said it will also be increasing (it did not say by how much).
This is likely to provide a timely boost to the HKCC's enforcement efforts, and increase the regulator’s confidence in taking companies to the Competition Tribunal for competition law breaches. Businesses in Hong Kong should be even more vigilant than before in ensuring that their commercial arrangements and conduct comply with the Competition Ordinance.
The Commission had already brought its second case to the Tribunal in August 2017, against ten construction and engineering firms alleged to have engaged in price-fixing and market-sharing in renovation services. The Government’s announcement of extra funding signifies a determination by both the Government and the Commission that the Competition Ordinance (which has only been in force since December 2015) be enforced rigorously.
In September 2017, the HKCC appointed a new Chief Executive, Brent Snyder (an ex-criminal prosecutor at the U.S. Department of Justice). Mr. Snyder brings a wealth of trial experience to his new role.
It is not yet clear whether the US $25 million will be a one-off payment or an annual one: this may be clarified when the Government presents its funding plan to Hong Kong’s legislature on 30 October 2017.