Competition watchdog to conduct two market studies

Competition watchdog moots market surveys as part of new consumer protection role

Singapore's competition watchdog launched its new consumer protection role yesterday with the announcement of two market studies - on online travel booking and on the transfer of personal data.

In one study, the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) will focus on the online booking of flight tickets and hotel accommodation, given the growing popularity of the medium here.

It will examine the types of commercial arrangements entered into between third-party online travel-booking platforms and service providers, and how they compete with each other.

The second study is a joint one with the Personal Data Protection Commission to examine consumer protection, competition and personal data protection issues which may arise if a data portability requirement is introduced in Singapore.

Data portability enables consumers to request that data they supply a service provider be transferred to a competing provider that they switch to.

This will foster competition by easing the process for consumers to switch between service providers, said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Koh Poh Koon at the launch of the watchdog's new role yesterday at Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The commission's chief executive Toh Han Li said: "Data is becoming increasingly important for businesses; some people call it the new oil. It can be a source of market power, and, in a situation where there is a monopolisation of data, that is a concern."

The Competition Commission of Singapore was renamed the CCCS on April 1, when it took over the enforcement of rules related to retailers who persist in unfair trade practices under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act.

Spring Singapore, which previously administered the Act, merged with trade agency International Enterprise Singapore on the same day to form Enterprise Singapore.

The Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) will remain the first point of contact for complaints against errant retailers.

The commission's chairman Aubeck Kam said more than 70 per cent of such complaints handled by Case are successfully resolved through mediation.

However, retailers who do not stop their unfair practices will be referred to the commission for investigation.