15 November 2012

Nigeria: Anti-Competition Among Telecoms Operators Will Stifle Growth, Says NCC

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said that anti-competitive behaviour among telecoms operating companies will bring huge setback to the growth of telecoms industry, if not addressed.

Director, Policy Competition and Economic Analysis for NCC, Mrs. Lolia Emakpore, who gave the hint in Lagos in an interview with THISDAY that NCC had come to realise that anti-competition would not only stifle growth of the industry, but would also erode the gains of telecommunications, which the commission had sustained in the past eleven years.

According to her, it was for this reason that the NCC held a meeting in Lagos recently to discuss with all stakeholders, including telecoms operators, to enable it come out with policy statement on fresh guidelines for healthy competition in the industry.

She promised that the new policy statement would be released by the end of December, 2012.

In technical parlance, anti-competition is an action carried out by dominant operators, who use their large size and financial strength to intimidate and usurp the little powers of smaller operators in the same market, in the name of competition.

"Any anti-competitive behaviour sets the industry back. It affects consumers and industry growth, and it kills and stifles development and that is why the NCC will not allow it to play up in the market. Although anti-competition is not encouraged, but dominance in the market is not a bad development in itself, but whenever dominant operation is established in the market, there is need for the regulator to come up with proper regulation that will guide against unhealthy dominance, which is referred to as anti-competition," Emakpore said.

She warned that NCC would apply sanction where necessary, should there be clear case of anti-competitive behaviour among telecoms operators.

"The Nigerian telecoms market has come a long way and it has grown so big that it has become important for NCC to look into the market and see the level of competition in the market. The essence of the stakeholders meeting is to help NCC define the market vertically and horizontally and to help it determine if there are dominant operators in the industry," Emakpore said.

"The outcome of the meeting will help NCC to further review and redevelop the existing laws and guidelines on anti-competition, in order to ensure that they adequately meet the needs of the market," she noted.

Asked if anti-competition was already playing up in the telecoms market space, Emakpore said NCC received some complaints from some telecoms operators on what seems to be anti-competitive behaviour, but that it would be pre-mature of the commission to take action based on such complaints, without first defining what constitutes anti-competitive behaviour.

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