OPINION: New business era begins for HK

HONG KONG (China Daily/ANN) - When the new Competition Ordinance came into effect on December 14, Hong Kong ushered in a new era for its business environment.

When the new Competition Ordinance came into effect on Monday (December 14), Hong Kong ushered in a new era for its business environment. The new legislation intends to create a level playing field for all businesses and to prevent price-fixing and other unfair business practices.

As if to celebrate the launch of the new ordinance, many retailers of electronic appliances already started slashing prices a few days ahead. Popular products like mobile phones were being sold at much lower prices, some more than HK$1,000 cheaper. That happened because retailers no longer have to follow prices fixed by suppliers.

At first, most public attention was on the new law’s ability to weed out the widespread malpractice of bid-rigging in the realm of building renovation. But as the date of implementation approached, society found that the ordinance could affect areas and industries in ways probably not even the law drafters could have imagined.

Last week, the Employers’ Federation of Hong Kong refrained from discussing the level of salary raises suggested for the coming year. That the federation abandoned its annual practice shows the impact of the new legislation is felt far and wide. It also demonstrates that although the ordinance has been under discussion for two years, public awareness had not reached a level high enough to call for action until very recently. That is an indication of insufficient publicity — an area the authorities need to invest more resources in.

For a new law, the most trying aspect is effective implementation. That worry should be laid to rest, as the Competition Commission is vested with extensive powers to conduct investigations into suspected infringements. Anna Wu Hung-yuk, the chairperson of the commission, has promised leniency for the first whistleblower in each case.

Implementation of the new law may run into teething problems, and probably no one can fully understand at this point the breadth and depth of its impact. It will certainly take some time for various sectors of the local business community as well as society at large to adapt to the new law and let the idea of fair play sink in. It may even take some litigation in court to sort out what the new law should really mean. But, no matter what, that the ordinance is good for Hong Kong is beyond doubt.

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