Watchdog slaps big-ticket fine on Sistic
Chan Yuping
Sat, Jun 05, 2010
The Business Times

SISTIC closed the door on its rivals and opened the window to pricier tickets to performances. For this, Singapore's competitive watchdog yesterday slapped fines of about $1 million on the dominant ticketing operator which, it ruled, had stymied its counterparts' ability to compete.

In its first and harshest decision against a company for abusing its dominant position, the Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS) called the $989,000 fine a 'careful and considered decision' after 'in-depth economic analysis'.

Jointly owned by the Singapore Indoor Stadium and The Esplanade, Sistic also had 'explicit agreements' with the venues to be appointed as ticketing agents. Besides that, Sistic also had 17 other agreements with event organisers for it to be appointed as exclusive ticketing agents.

Altogether, the exclusive agreements dating from 2006 represented 60 to 70 per cent of the market, restricting smaller players such as Tickets.com, Gatecrash and Global Ticket Network from gaining business and expanding their customer base.

As a result of the agreements, ticket buyers could buy tickets only through Sistic, causing prices of tickets to increase for which consumers had to bear, said CCS.

'The entire ticketing services market in Singapore loses its vibrancy and impetus for innovation and improving efficiency,' said Timothy Chew, senior assistant director of policy & economic analysis at CCS.

CCS has directed Sistic to remove all clauses that require its contractual partners to use Sistic exclusively. It also requires Sistic to ensure that Section 47 of the Competition Act is not contravened again.

Sistic has made an appeal following the infringement decision, and has instructed senior counsel of Drew & Napier LLC, Cavinder Bull, to take the lead as legal counsel.

'Sistic has always believed and been committed to operating in a healthy competitive environment and will strongly defend our case,' said Kenneth Tan, chief executive officer of Sistic.

Yesterday's crackdown against anti-competitive actions also saw 14 major players in the electrical and building works sector slapped $187,593 in fines for colluding to rig bids at 10 projects including the Esplanade, Pinewood Gardens and Gloucester Mansions.Integrated One Construction Pte Ltd, AVL Electrical Engineering Pte Ltd and Etora United Engineering (S) Pte Ltd were among the most heavily penalised, while Arisco Engineering and Maintenance Services Pte Ltd was awarded total immunity for being the first to expose the cartel in December 2008.

'CCS is glad that the new management of Arisco realised what the company did wrong and came forward to report the cartel activities,' said chief executive of CCS, Mr Teo. 'As a result, CCS was able to successfully break up the cartels.'

Given the secretive nature of cartels, Mr Teo stressed the importance of creating 'a race to the door' by granting leniency to parties who come forward first to disclose their participation in illegal arrangements.

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