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Head of Competition Council promises ‘close monitoring’ of fuel market 

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Competition Council President Ahmed Rahou reviewed the institution’s work over the past year, saying that “2023 saw 200 interventions from the competition authority on economic concentrations in Morocco.”

“We worked on 200 operations, which is a record. We focused on commercial concentrations and clusters by processing a set of files, which used to take a long time, about three to four weeks.”

Rahou, speaking at the opening of the Competition Council’s annual meeting with the media on Thursday in Rabat, emphasized that the Council’s operational intervention in monitoring the national economic fabric included working on the concentration or economic conglomeration of a number of actors, a legal process that allows “publishing undeclared economic activities.”

The official also noted that the Council worked last year to stop the collection of electronic performance fees through a months-long effort and careful communication and tracking with those concerned, especially for online payment of water and electricity bills or the taxation of some services.

Fuel prices

In his speech, Rahou mentioned the “thorny and controversial issue of hydrocarbons and public debate.”

“We took measures, and some cases were resolved through penalties or fines, especially with the possibility of resolving some thorny files, including the thorny fuel file, which we reopened and imposed a fine, after a group of violations were reported before resorting to measures taken by the Competition Council to inform companies of the prices that have changed significantly, a positive measure that falls within the framework of the transitional movement that the Council is experiencing.”

In his interaction with questions from the media, the official confirmed what he had already announced in a previous interview with Hespress, highlighting that “the Council will conduct a quarterly assessment and careful monitoring of the fuel market in Morocco, before publishing the available data after an assessment,” adding: “We also decided to conduct a study of the fuel market and evaluate its performance in 2023.”

The president of the Competition Council acknowledged that “the rise in energy prices, due to global geopolitical contexts, affects all branches of the transportation or production sectors in all fields, and is a contributing factor in determining the final price of a number of consumer products; therefore, competition monitoring is important for consumers and producers.”

He pointed out that “the Council asked the government to clarify or amend some legal issues through decrees to open the way for new actors in the hydrocarbon market in Morocco.” He continued: “We will follow up on the outcome of our proposals and work in harmony with governmental actors.”

“The Competition Council works to address the most sensitive files or those that affect society,” Rahou told the media present, along with international experts in the field of competition, giving the example that “the intervention is not only limited to the amicable and conciliatory aspect, but in many cases that violate the competition law and freedom of prices, it may reach the litigation/judicial path.”

Regarding the legality of imposing electronic performance fees on electronic bill payers, where the customer pays an additional price even if he pays the cost, the speaker reiterated the Council’s position that “these fees are arbitrary measures against the customer,” and added: “That is why we mobilized to ask companies to exempt citizens from these increases, and we succeeded.”

The head of the Competition Council went on to explain: “When any price irregularities are recorded, we intervene, and if the company’s policies are not modified after recording and informing them of what needs to be modified, we resort to the judiciary. We do not stop until a decision is issued in our favor.”

In response to a question about the Competition Council imposing laws on competition in the markets, Rahou revealed that the organization is working on this, adding: “We also monitor any action that affects the purchasing power or economic performance of any sector,” he added: “We give our opinion on the state of competition in a given sector and what measures should be developed or avoided.”

“All the laws that have been implemented or changed are directly related to prices and their determination, so if there are recommendations to change or develop a legal text, we write to the official authorities about the need to include a law related to a specific sector, or renew a legislative framework for a specific competition situation,” he said.

The Competition Council and the media

In terms of the relationship between the Competition Council and the media, Rahou stressed the importance of maintaining communication between the two parties, citing the efforts of his council to “publicize measures, procedures and prosecutions and make them available to the media in a simplified manner and inform them of what the council is doing.”

“The joint work with the media ensures an integrated work and informs the public opinion about the details and circumstances of each file,” he said: “The role of competition used to be completely ignored, but today it has become very important as an arbitration role in the national market. I believe that the quality of our work is reflected in our publications and publications.”

According to the same official, the annual meeting is “an opportunity to exchange with journalists about the Council’s procedures and discuss issues of competition law and the economy,” noting that it provides “an opportunity to present practical cases and comparative experiences presented by international experts, which contributed to respecting the competition law and promoting the culture of competition among economic actors and the general public.”

He also noted positively “the role of the media as important actors in the competition system by raising awareness of the rules of free and fair competition,” stressing that they “contribute to strengthening the Council’s initiatives to create a competitive climate in line with the interests of companies and citizens.”

The meeting was also an opportunity to award the “Competition Council Research Award” to the winners whose works were selected, in order to “reward doctoral theses and master’s theses in economics, management and competition law.”

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