So the news today is that lots of people are unhappy with the S$3 surcharge being imposed by taxi companies on rides starting from the Marina Bay Sands “resort” (primarily casino). The justification was that there was a “mismatch” between demand and supply at that location: more people were wanting taxis from there than there were taxis going there – which is kind of hard to believe because surely for every person who wants to leave in a taxi, there would probably be one who would want to get there by taxi. Don’t tell me people tend to go there by bus (there are no convenient train routes there) and leave by taxi?
What I found strange was that the Straits Times’ story on the issue ( 7 May 2010, Commuters, experts slam cab levy at IR) covered many angles but failed to mention that six taxi companies acting in concert to impose exactly the same surcharge starting exactly the same day constitutes a price cartel and price-fixing. Which is against the law.
Section 34 of the Competition Act expressly says:
34. —(1) Subject to section 35, agreements between undertakings, decisions by associations of undertakings or concerted practices which have as their object or effect the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition within Singapore are prohibited unless they are exempt in accordance with the provisions of this Part.
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), agreements, decisions or concerted practices may, in particular, have the object or effect of preventing, restricting or distorting competition within Singapore if they —
(a) directly or indirectly fix purchase or selling prices or any other trading conditions;
Why is the Competition Commission whose job is to monitor and enforce the Act not issuing a cease-and-desist notice immediately?
Oh wait, the same taxi companies imposed a similar surcharge last January in relation to Resort World’s casino on Sentosa. And our competition regulators were asleep then. As they seem to be now.