2019 saw both antitrust legislative and enforcement developments. Most notably, the Office of Trade Competition Commission (“OTCC”) reopened unsettled abusive and unfair treatment cases, and imposed a fine penalty which marked the Thai competition agency’s first penalty in almost 20 years since the Trade Competition Act 1999 (the predecessor of the current act).
The Trade Competition Commission has taken a highly active role, scrutinizing conducts and business dealings across multiple sectors in Thailand. The Commission’s investigations we have seen are swift and efficient — with the majority, if not all, of the investigations on unfair treatment and vertical restraints (such as exclusivity, territorial restriction, and refusal to deal). The Commission and the OTCC’s activeness is also demonstrated through their frequent public announcements, seminars and interviews, which are aimed at promoting awareness of competition law in Thailand.
On the transaction side, the 50-percent or the top-three-75-percent dominance threshold means that merger approval cases are rare, while the turnover-based threshold triggers a post-merger filing obligations for many businesses.
Key Events in 2019
|June 2019||OTCC Notification on the criteria and procedures for issuing cease and desist orders issued|
|July 2019||Two OTCC Guidelines issued: one on unfair trade practices for wholesale and retail business, and the other on criminal penalty settlement|
|August 2019||First fine penalty imposed on the abuse of dominant position behavior in the total amount of Baht 12 million|
|December 2019||OTCC Guideline on unfair trade practices in the franchise business issued|
|January 2020||OTCC Notification on investigation and fact-finding procedures for criminal and administrative offences issued|
What to Expect in 2020?
Merger control continues to be under spotlight in 2020. As evident from past deals, the OTCC will likely keep a close watch on headline deals, and may not shy away from sharing their views publicly if they think the transaction would require a merger approval.
On the regulatory side, it is expected that more guidelines will be announced to provide clarity to businesses. Among these industries, e-commerce will be one of the focus industries due to its fast growth and impact on a wide range of consumers.