FTC plans to drag antitrust policies into the 21st century

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FTC plans to drag antitrust policies into the 21st century

The Fair Trade Commission has taken the first step in reforming the 38-year-old antitrust laws to better serve today’s rapidly changing business landscape, including making it easier to file lawsuits against companies that commit unfair business practices and changing how chaebol are designated.

The FTC on Monday said it has formed a 23-member committee led by Yoo Jin-soo, a professor at Sookmyung Women’s University and Ji Chul-ho, vice chairman of the FTC. It held its first meeting on Friday.

“There are new products and industries that are completely different from the past,” FTC Chairman Kim Sang-jo said. “We can’t deal with these [changes] under the current antitrust laws.”

Kim explained that there have been 27 partial reforms since the antitrust law was first introduced in 1980.

“As such the systematics of the law has been broken,” Kim said. “[Today’s] Fair Trade law is a product of the 20th century. There’s a limit to the current law in backing innovative growth while executing fair competition,” Kim said.

The special committee is divided into three subcommittees that will be handling three areas - economics, business and process.

The economics subcommittee will be reviewing the antitrust laws to improve the merger and acquisition process, market dominance and the manipulation of the market as well as unfair business practices while the business subcommittee will be reviewing regulations that have obstructed competitiveness. The process subcommittee will be looking into improving regulations regarding governance.

One of the key regulations that will be reviewed is the process of filing lawsuits against unfair business practices. Under the current law, only the FTC is allowed to bring fair trade cases to court through the prosecutors’ office. This law was created in order to prevent a flood of lawsuits against companies by individuals and civic groups.

However, the FTC has repeatedly championed the need to distribute this exclusive right, especially noting that because of limited resources at the antitrust agency, unfair business investigations have been conducted poorly.

The FTC special committee will draw up the conclusion of its review by July before passing the reformed bill to the National Assembly.

FTC Chairman Kim said the agency will work with other government departments closely on the reformed bill.

“In order to overhaul the antitrust law, we need the close cooperation of other government departments,” Kim said. “We will be cooperating with the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of SMEs and Startups and the Financial Services Commission.”

Kim said that upgrading the antitrust law while keeping the fundamental framework will contribute largely to realizing an innovative market economy system that meets the changing economy and market environment of the 21st century.

BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]
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