The International Competition Network (ICN) and the World Bank Group (WBG) are pleased to share the results of the 2019-2020 Competition Advocacy Contest. By showcasing success stories of effective competition advocacy, the contest aims to raise awareness of the key role played by competition agencies, government entities and non-governmental organizations in promoting competition.
Winners and honorable mentions were announced during a virtual ceremony on September 22nd, 2020, when the chair of the ICN Steering Group and representatives of the ICN Advocacy Working Group, World Bank Group and the selecting panel discussed lessons learned and details of the successful advocacy initiatives with officials from the awarded Competition Authorities. Click here to see the recording of the virtual event.
The winning stories as well as stories worthy of honorable mention were selected among 37 entries submitted by both government authorities and non-governmental organizations from 25 jurisdictions around the world, divided in the following themes:
- Theme 1 - Unleashing competition for more and better jobs
- Theme 2 - Aligning industrial policies with competition principles
- Theme 3 - Promoting pro-competition data regulation
- Theme 4 - Boosting policy effectiveness through better coordination between enforcement and advocacy
|The winners and honorable mentions of the 2019-2020 Competition Advocacy Contest were selected by the following panel (in alphabetical order):|
- Christine Zhenwei Qiang, Practice Manager, Investment Climate Unit, Finance, Competitiveness & Innovation Global Practice, World Bank Group
- Eleanor M. Fox, Walter J. Derenberg Professor of Trade Regulation, New York University School of Law
- Georgiana Pop, Global Lead, Global Competition Policy Team, Equitable Growth, Finance and Institutions, World Bank Group
- Mariana Tavares de Araujo, Senior Partner, Levy & Salomão Advogados
Theme 1 - Unleashing competition for more and better jobs.
Both winners in this category successfully used their enforcement and advocacy actions to open markets, stimulate growth and create more and better (higher productivity) jobs. In that regard, the stories particularly underline the importance of (i) promoting license portability while maintaining safety standards and (ii) having clear guidelines that prosecute anticompetitive practices (such as wage-fixing agreements) in labor-intensive markets.
United States – Federal Trade Commission (Winner)
Due to the proliferation of occupational licensing requirements in the last decades, the US Federal Trade Commission has led a national dialogue with stakeholders to catalyze regulatory reforms, showcasing an independent report advocating for occupational license portability among states, and specific success stories in the health sector. Several state legislatures and other state and federal decision-makers have enacted laws or taken action consistent with the FTC recommendations, which are expected to lead to procompetitive benefits for both workers and consumers, including lower costs, shorter waiting times for appointments, as well as more job opportunities and labor mobility for licensed professionals.
United States – Department of Justice, Antitrust Division (Winner)
Starting in 2016, the US Department of Justice intensified efforts to promote labor market competition. Highlights of their advocacy work included the “2016 Guidance for Human Resource Professionals”, which promoted deterrence and detection in hiring and compensation policies by announcing criminal prosecution of naked no-poach and wage-fixing agreements. In 2019, a public workshop on “Competition in Labor Markets” was also launched to gather preeminent scholars around competition enforcement. These, together with other advocacy tools (court filings in non-Agency private litigation, participation in hearings and panels, direct outreach to stakeholders…) have resulted into civil merger and non-merger investigations and criminal investigations tackling anticompetitive effects in labor markets.
Theme 2 - Aligning industrial policies with competition principles
Stories awarded in this category illustrate the benefits of informing industrial policies with competition policies. They demonstrate how competition principles can increase industry effectiveness through new regulations, guidelines or codes of conduct. When aligned, both tools may lead to more open, efficient and greener markets.
Australia – Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (Winner)
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) conducted an inquiry in the milk processing market that identified a range of market failures resulting from bargaining power imbalances and information asymmetry along the dairy value chain. The features of the industry resulted in practices that ultimately caused inefficiencies in dairy production and resulted in a lack of horizontal competition. The agency thus recommended the introduction of a legally enforceable code of conduct to improve dairy farmers’ bargaining position by increased transparency, freedom of switching and simpler contracts, reducing barriers to horizontal competition among processors. The agency’s recommendation was accepted and implemented by the Government.
Colombia – Superintendence of Industry and Commerce (Honorable Mention)
The Superintendence of Industry and Commerce (SIC) offered recommendations to the Energy Regulator regarding their planned auction mechanism to promote non-conventional renewable energy sources (NCRE). Specifically, SIC identified two characteristics as potentially restrictive: demanding contracts to start by January 2022 (market foreclosure) and establishing a complementary (not competitive) production mechanism to fulfill the target demand. The regulator accepted the recommendations and successfully modified the auction design: NCRE installed capacity will increase from less than 50 MW to more than 2.200 MW by 2022, multiplying by 40 the capacity of solar and wind generation and will expectedly drop average energy prices by 35%.
Russia – Federal Antimonopoly Service of the Russian Federation (Honorable Mention)
The Federal Antimonopoly Service of the Russian Federation (FAS) advocated to amend the State-Owned Enterprise (SOE) legislation to limit the role of federal and municipal SOEs in competitive markets (e.g. heat and water supply, housing management, trade and services). After including this initiative as an objective under the National Competition Development Plan for 2018–2020, FAS drafted an amendment to the SOE legislation, approved by Parliament in December 2019, that establishes rules for the liquidation of SOEs providing commercial goods/services in markets that can function under competition.
Theme 3 - Promoting pro-competition data regulation
The authority awarded in this category successfully provides guidance to market participants in the digital economy. It clarifies how the use of algorithms and big data may drive market power, participation, foreclosure, innovation and expansion while keeping business accountable for their practices, whether tacit or explicit. As a result, competition advocacy helps to ensures that data-driven markets remain contestable.
Portugal – Portuguese Competition Authority (Winner).
The Portuguese Competition Authority published the Issues Paper on Digital Ecosystems, Big Data and Algorithms to raise awareness on the impact that the digitalization of the economy has within competition enforcement and to deter anti-competitive behavior in the digital space. The paper highlights how simple rule-based pricing algorithms may foster tacit and explicit collusion and reminds firms of their responsibility over the algorithms they use. Following this initiative, the Authority announced the creation of a task force for the digital economy in 2020. It is also expected that the paper will have a positive impact, bolstering overall national economic growth.
Theme 4 - Boosting policy effectiveness through better coordination between enforcement and advocacy
Stories in this category successfully show how competition law enforcement and advocacy have a critical and mutually reinforcing role in achieving pro-competitive market outcomes. They reflect the benefits of leveraging enforcement to boost advocacy initiatives as well as how advocacy efforts can inform enforcement prioritization.
Hong Kong – Competition Commission (Winner)
The Hong Kong Competition Commission brought its first market sharing case to court against 10 decorator construction providers at a Public Housing Estate in 2017. Riding on the public attention drawn by its enforcement action, and in order to educate business and the public, the agency launched a 3-month city-wide advocacy campaign with Key Opinion Leaders’ videos on social media. This resulted in higher (i) awareness, reflected in a 25% increase in the market sharing complaints received; (ii) enforcement, reflected in 2 new market sharing cases filed; and (iii) policy considerations, reflected on the Housing Authority Decoration Contractor System refinement.
Mauritius – Competition Commission (Honorable Mention)
Closely following a Competition Commission’s resale price maintenance (RPM) infringement decision, a time-limited Amnesty Programme was launched after observing the widespread unawareness of these agreements’ illegality and their potential presence in the country. The programme was heavily supported by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, offering immunity to a party to an RPM in exchange of RPM disclosure, cessation and relevant commitments. The programme received 102 applications out of which 96 have already been granted immunity. Price competition for thousands of products was restored, several RPMs were unveiled and 43% of applicants voluntarily put in place comprehensive compliance programmes.
Mexico – Federal Economic Competition Commission (Honorable Mention)
After the Mexican Federal Economic Competition Commission (COFECE) systematically investigated and sanctioned several cartels in public procurement, and produced a guideline with best practices for the efficient use of public resources, the National Housing Institute(NHI), a public institution that disburses more than 440 million USD annually through procurement procedures in Mexico, requested COFECE’s support to improve its procurement processes. The request made by NHI sought to address important competition concerns, such as automatic contract renewals, open bids’ limitations and mandatory professional affiliations. COFECE issued an opinion, which was implemented by NHI, to establish public tenders by default, limit non-competitive procedures and eliminate unnecessary requirements for the provision of professional services. This initiative saved NHI around USD 170 million in 2019 alone and paved the way for future collaboration between COFECE and other public authorities.
Zambia – Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (Honorable Mention)
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission of Zambia intervened in a refusal to deal case where MTN Zambia had denied Zoona Zambia access to their platform for Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) and Bulk Short Message Services (SMS). After consultations held with the Bank of Zambia, the telecommunications regulator and foreign operators, and launching several advocacy campaigns, the case was settled and MTN Zambia was fined 4% of its annual turnover. This enforcement and advocacy combination led to the entry of 4 operators, millions of mobile money services’ customers, a 70% price reduction of the services and 20,000 new direct and indirect jobs.