New Thai Antitrust Law with Teeth
Thailand’s Trade Competition Act B.E. 2542 (1999) is likely to be amended latest by the end of the first quarter of 2017. The draft amendment has been reviewed by the National Legislative Assembly and approved by the Council of State, and the final draft is now pending Cabinet approval.
Current antitrust legislation in Thailand has been criticized on grounds that it is unenforceable; during the entire 17-year period of the law being in effect, not a single case has been prosecuted.
Several root causes of the current law’s unenforceability will be removed through the amended Act. The lack of independence of the Office of the Thai Competition Commission (OTCC) is often blamed. Unlike its independent counterparts in industrialized countries, the OTCC is currently a unit within the Department of Internal Trade at the Ministry of Commerce (MOC). Its 40-strong workforce of lawyers, economists, marketing and competition experts is now undergoing intensive training so as to be able to conduct dawn raids on suspected law violators and search, seize and arrest – more serious enforcement appears to be on the way!
Under the new law, an independent OTCC will be set up away from the umbrella of the MOC, similar to the Office of the Anti-Corruption Commission. It will have its own budget, buildings and workforce as well as pressure to showcase its achievements, and is recruiting ex-law enforcement officers such as police, public prosecutors and investigation experts.
There will be greater alignment with competition laws in the EU, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and the US, and criminal penalties such as jail terms and fines will increase; fines could go up from the maximum of THB 6 Million per offense to 20 times the annual revenue of the company.
In addition, class actions can now be filed by consumer groups under Thailand’s new consumer litigation procedures, with punitive damages of up to 500% of actual damages – a new concept in Thailand but one that is well-established in the US.
In view of the expected amendment of the Trade Competition Act, BRS is providing antitrust training seminars to sales forces and executives of multi-nationals operating in Thailand in both the Thai and English languages, incorporating case studies that demonstrate the high standards that are required in Europe, the US, and Thailand’s developed Asian neighbors.