PCC to probe possible cartel amid high onion prices

By Kris Crismundo

February 16, 2023, 5:49 pm

<p><em>PNA photo by Robinson Niñal Jr.</em></p>

PNA photo by Robinson Niñal Jr.

MANILA – The Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) wants to determine the root cause of high retail prices of onions by investigating possible anti-competitive behavior.
The PCC has started its probe for “possible cartel or abuse of dominance conduct” consistent with the House Resolution No. 681 filed by Marikina Representative Stella Luz Quimbo, a former PCC commissioner.
“Since November 2022, the Philippine Competition Commission has been investigating the high prices of onion for possible cartel or abuse of dominance conduct,” it said in a statement Thursday.
The antitrust body said it launched its market assessment amid the skyrocketing onion retail prices, which it observed at an unusual price range of PHP600 per kilogram in December 2022.
“As prices are seen to stabilize due to the imports and the SRP set last Feb. 6, the PCC is looking into the cause of such market anomaly in coordination with the sector regulators and other law enforcement agencies,” it added.
The PCC defines cartels as “businesses conniving to manipulate the market to their advantage (that) cause significant harm to consumers by engaging in coordinated anti-competitive behavior such as price-fixing, bid-rigging, output restriction, and market allocation.”
On the other hand, abuse of dominant position is “when an entity with a significant degree of power in a market engages in conduct that substantially prevent(s), restrict(s), or lessen(s) competition”.
Both cartel and abuse of dominant position are prohibited under the Philippine Competition Act (PCA).
The PCC said that under the PCA, those who will be found conducting anti-competitive behavior may be fined up to PHP100 million and may face jail time of up to seven years.
“The fines may even be tripled if trade of basic necessities, including agricultural products identified by the Price Act, are involved in cartel or abuse of dominance violations,” it added. (PNA)