Unfair duty

Flashback: Shoppers waiting outside Cave Shepherd for last duty free day.

Bridgetown businesses keen to have another Duty-Free Shopping Day will likely find it harder to get approval from authorities. But even if they succeed with some agencies, they should not count on the support of the Fair Trading Commission. That’s because an investigation by the FTC has found that the 2011 effort intended to attract more shoppers to the island’s capital in fact “had the potential of distorting competition within the retail distribution”.

The regulator publicised its findings in its recently released 2012 annual report, and said it had investigated the matter after received complaints from “two Bridgetown stores as well as the management of Sheraton Centre objecting” on December 8 last year.

“The complaints alleged that the promotion was grossly unfair to merchants in the island who were not amongst the selected participants,” it noted. “The commission considered this matter at its meeting of December 8, 2011 and determined that under the Fair Competition Act the commission is granted authority to investigate conduct which his undertaken by enterprises engaged in business for gain or reward.

“In this case the action of concern was policy.

“Therefore the matter did not constitute alleged anti-competitive conduct by an enterprise and as such was not subject to investigation by the Commission under the Fair Competition Act,” it explained.

The FTC added that in keeping with its powers in such circumstances, it “sought to advise the relevant public authority through its ministry that the proposed policy had the potential of distorting competition within the retail distribution sector”.

“The Commission viewed the policy as inconsistent with the promotion of competition which is the primary objective of the Fair Competition Act. The commission wrote through its ministry indicating its views and also communicated its findings to the complainants,” it said. (SC)

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