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Monday, 25 February 2008

Retrospection - Part 2 (ZAMTEL & Competition)

One of the most heated exchanges on this blog has been the future of ZAMTEL. In particular, whether there's still a place for a monolithic and inefficient government player in Zambia's telecommunication industry. When I flagged up the proposed ICT Bill 2007 , I noted that it was a positive development because it appeared to strengthen the capability of the CAZ, especially with respect to economic regulation. The role of the Zambia Competition Commission (ZCC) is also clarified. It was therefore refreshing to see that ZCC are pushing for further changes that would further ensure that it was able to keep the likes of ZAMTEL in check.

State-owned companies shouldn't be exempted from competition law
By Kabanda Chulu
Friday January 11, 2008

ZAMBIA Competition Commission (ZCC) has submitted draft proposals to government which recommend that state-owned companies should not be exempted from the competition law.

ZCC acting executive director Thula Kaira yesterday said the draft proposals would result in amending the 1994 competition and fair trading Act in order to make it more responsive to the challenges facing the Zambian market.

He said certain areas in the current Act were not clear hence the commission found it difficult to enforce the law.“The position currently obtaining whereby the Act states that government must be exempted from the competition law must be stopped because it is not clear to what extent the exemption must be applied to public owned companies especially when these companies are dominant,” Kaira said. “The exemption clause in the Act is not clear, for example, Celtel can be punished for anti-competitive practices but it becomes difficult if similar cases are raised against Zamtel since it is government-owned and must be included in the exemption clause.”

Kaira said there was also need to have a competition and consumer tribunal to be put in place to ensure quick dispensation of cases.

He further noted that the consumer law was not adequate to protect people because it was too fragmented, resulting in higher cost of enforcement.

“Need has arisen to have law covering all sectors in order to ensure full protection for consumers because consumer rights are synonymous with human rights and another challenge is that the commission has no powers to punish offenders administratively through fines and penalties but just recommend to courts of law, which is costly to prosecute hence we are proposing the creation of a tribunal to arbitrate cases in a quick and fair manner,” said Kaira.

The draft proposals were compiled by ZCC together with various stakeholders and have been submitted to the Ministry of Commerce so that the minister can present the bill to parliament for amendments.

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