9 months make a baby – but no antitrust authority!

mozambique

Almost nine months later… and still no signs of the Mozambique Competition Authority

By Sofia Ranchordas, Tilburg University (Law School)

On April 11, 2013, the Mozambique Competition Act was passed.  We wrote a piece on the potential advent of competition law in Mozambique here, brusquely entitled: Antitrust in Mozambique? …could have stayed in COMESA.

The law constitutes an important milestone for the country’s economy since it establishes an independent competition regulatory authority (‘CRA’), is applicable to most economic activities, and introduces a legal framework for competition in Mozambique. The Mozambique Competition Act addresses anti-competitive practices and merger control. This act came into force on July 10 and should have been implemented by October 8, 2013. It ‘should have’ but its thorough implementation, including the approval of the Statute of the CRA, leniency program and the definition of exact thresholds for the notification of mergers to the CRA, is still out of sight.

In 2007, the Mozambique Competition Policy (Resolution n.º 37/2007, 12.11) was approved. The adoption of this policy document was a step towards the modernization of this country’s framework for business conduct and improvement of competition conditions. It was also an attempt to tackle existing anticompetitive practices taking place in different economic sectors, including predatory pricing, refusals to deal, and horizontal agreements. In 2007, the Council of Ministers acknowledged the need for stricter competition rules and the establishment of an independent competition authority. At the time, Mozambique already knew multiple sectoral dispositions prohibiting anti-competitive practices that were (and still are) enforced by sectoral regulators. However, an all-embracing competition act was still missing. In 2009, the endorsement of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Declaration on Regional Cooperation in Competition and Consumer Policies increased the pressure for the enactment of a competition act. Mozambique was seriously lagging behind the other members of this regional community, where some countries had effective competition laws and operating competition authorities for years. This was the case of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Malawi.

On April 11, 2013 the long-awaited Mozambique Competition Act (‘MzCA’) was adopted. An attentive reader shall rapidly find the similarities between this act and the 2003 Portuguese Competition Act (replaced in 2012). The MzCA has a comprehensive scope and is applicable to both private and State-owned undertakings, including most economic activities (see the exceptions listed in article 4). This act prohibits both horizontal and vertical agreements and practices susceptible of substantially impeding, distorting or restricting competition (articles 15-18). This act provides however that the mentioned prohibited practices may notably be justified if they generate economic efficiencies, promote the competitiveness of small and medium enterprises, promote innovation, exportations, or result in other pro-competitive gains (article 21 and 22). Although the text of the MzCA is unclear, it appears that the drafting of a leniency policy is one of the elements which shall be regulated in the context of the implementation process of this act.

The prohibition of abuse of dominant position, as defined in article 20, appears to be one of the priorities of this law. Mozambique is characterized by a highly concentrated market and the dominance of previously state-owned companies, which have been recently liberalized.

The MzCA introduces merger control rules in Mozambique, defining mergers as ‘an acquisition of shareholdings, an acquisition of ownerships or the right of use of assets, IP rights, or any agreements granting a decisive influence on the composition or resolution of corporate bodies. Mergers that meet certain thresholds must notify the operation to the CRA within seven working days after the agreement. These thresholds remain until now unknown since their definition has been left to the further regulations which should have been adopted in October this year.

As far as sanctions are concerned, the violation of the prohibitions contained in the MzCA may result in the application of fines up to 5% of a company’s turnover in the previous year. Additional sanctions such as the exclusion of participation in public tenders for a period of up to five years may equally be applied.

The implementation of the MzCA is expected to be gradual and to take into account the characteristics of the Mozambican economy. Considering the dispositions of the MzCA and particularly the extensive powers vested in the CRA, this act, if correctly implemented, may produce a strong impact on most Mozambican economic sectors and compel companies to rethink some of their practices. There is only one small detail: almost nine months have passed and it is still unknown when and how the implementation process of the MzCA will start.  If experience from other new competition jurisdictions can be used as a guideline, one may expect the MZ government to hire a law firm or other experts to draft the implementation rules that are still missing, but this – as much else – remains to be seen.

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