This is the major theme of a conference held in Hanoi on March 11 by the Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) Hanoi Resource Centre in collaboration with the Vietnam Competition Authority (VCA) under the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT).
With the support of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada, the conference aimed to launch a two-year project entitled “Study on Unfair Trade Practices in select ASEAN countries”, from 2011-2013.
This is the result of a research cooperation programme between the CUTS Hanoi Resource Centre and partners from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand. The project aims to fill the aforementioned void in the ASEAN region by generating and supporting the discussions/dialogues therein on issues related to Unfair Trade Practices (UTPs).
The conference brought together Vietnamese and foreign experts and academicians in Vietnam and abroad, as well as partners, advisors and governmental officials working in the field to discuss and exchange views on the nature and prevalence of UTPs in the region. They also raised their concerns about the impacts of UTPs on business growth and consumer welfare.
UTPs, otherwise called unfair competition practices, constitute an important part of antitrust statutes of several countries in the world. In some cases, UTPs are handled by a whole separate piece of legislative act - a law on unfair competition.
UTPs have considerable, sometimes quite severe, implications on business welfare, especially that of small-and-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and consumer welfare. However, in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), UTPs have remained in low profile for different reasons.
Addressing the event, VCA General Director Bach Van Mung said that there is growing concern in almost all economies, especially in developing countries where still lack a complete legal framework on this issue. “UTPs negatively impact on not only the competition environment but also consumer rights,” he stressed.
According to Mr. Mung, eight out of ten ASEAN nations have issued laws and regulations relating to the control of UTPs. However, he said, this is a complicated issue so it is no easy task to translate these laws and regulations into practice.
The VCA General Director expressed his hope that the project on UTPs and its challenges and impacts would help regional countries complete the legal system to create a healthy competition environment for both domestic and foreign businesses.