The Seychelles Fair Trading Commission (FTC) collected the largest amount of money in a fine since it was established, according to its report for 2022 although it registered a drop in the number of complaints.
The largest fine was for Cable and Wireless, which paid SCR800,000 ($60,452) for the act of collusion, whereby the telecoms provider was found guilty of directly fixing a purchase or selling price.
SNA met with the chief executive of the FTC, Nathalie Edmond, to learn more about the projects being done and the challenges and successes.
SNA: This year according to your annual report FTC will set up a tribunal, how is that going?
NE: I am very happy to say that last year when our law came into force in August 2022, we started the process of establishing the tribunal. It is important to mention that the tribunal is not within the preview of the FTC. It is under the Chief Justice, which means we do not have control of the tribunal.
We are just a party that brings in cases that we are investigating before the tribunal for adjudication. Obviously, we work very closely with the judiciary. We worked together to establish the tribunal’s rules that were gazetted in February this year and in March we started the tribunal.
Already we have had certain cases where rulings have been passed and it is progressing well. I have great expectations for the tribunal, because before that we had part-timers hearing cases. This means our cases are now moving faster and at the moment we are meeting twice a week. We have a bit of a case backlog – we have over 60 cases that we are still waiting to hear. But the fact that we have started, we expect that in time we will have dealt with the backlogs things will be a lot quicker.
SNA: What have been your challenges?
NE: In terms of the challenges we were facing, one was that of the many cases we dealt with, there had to be tests carried out to help us establish that there had been a breach. At times it was hard to do so as we did not have the people needed to carry them out.
We do not have all the expertise we need here at FTC, we need to work with other people to establish that there is a breach. Even if we wanted the information in a set period of time, it took us some time to get it because we needed to look far for the expertise required.
Another challenge we also faced was that some of the authorities we worked with needed to amend their laws. We cannot do everything on our own, we have to work with others in synergy.
The good thing is the majority of them are in the process of working on theirs, so the regulations are modernised and from there we can do much more efficient work. The other challenge we also face is that although we provide so much information, what we are seeing is that enterprises are still unaware of their obligations and their roles.
There is also the fact that there were many things being done manually and it took more time. This hindered our speed a bit and the effectiveness of doing our jobs. We launched a software in May – an FTC software to help us with our work. So now complaints come in digitally and we then assess them, without needing to type them out. The system also assigns the complainant a number so that they can track the progress of their complaints. So this helps us work faster and we also become more transparent.
|FTC launched a complaint and market surveillance software earlier in 2023. (Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY|
SNA: What have been your successes?
NE: One major thing is the fact that we were able to have our new law last year – which has given us more power so that we can take action better. I am also happy with the new regulations included in the law.
We also now have fixed penalties that we can now issue where there are breaches and they act as a deterrent. For one section, the fixed penalties can range from SCR500 ($38).to SCR20,000 ($1,540) depending on the quantity.
We had to devise means of deterring the practice. Right now, we are collecting money through these fines from various cases. We are hoping that in the long run, we will see a reduction in certain practices. I am hoping that the fixed penalties will be used as a lesson to all.
We held over 100 inspections last year with a team of five people in the inspection section. I think it was one of the records, as we had 111 inspections in total on Mahe, Praslin and La Digue.
We also had a ruling delivered in our favour, even though the case is one that has been pending worth SCR800,000 ($60,452). This was the Cable and Wireless case. This was the highest fine recorded so far and it shows that the work has not been in vain.
We have also reached around 78 percent resolutions. Our initial target had been 70 percent for last year. So it’s higher and I am quite happy with it, although there is still room for improvement.
SNA: What is the way forward for FTC?
NE: One of the ways forward for FTC was the establishment of the software to help us be more efficient. This is exactly what we’ve done. We’ve had the help of a consultant who sat with us and determined how they could streamline and make it easier to do our work. It is also a tool that will help the public have information. We won’t see the results there and then, we obviously need to give things a bit of time before reaping the results.
We have our tribunal up and running and we’ll expect to have a turnaround of cases faster – efficiency is what we want to have. In terms of different regulations we are also putting in place, this will help us collaborate with other entities and also provide faster solutions. So what we are after is efficiency, but efficiency with things done in the proper manner and according to the law.
I have to say that I like the vibe, because our people, our staff are in. You see the willingness to move forward and make a difference. This is really commendable. And I want to commend the staff. I know we are on the right track and I expect us to deliver as per our mandate. We also want to build a better relationship with the media as one of our key means of giving information. At the end of the day, we want to see if an informed person can make informed decisions.