A bill that will empower and clarify the major roles of the Trade Competition & Consumer Protection Authority reached the final stage.

Drafted by the Authority and the Ministry of Trade & Industry, the proclamation has been in the making for the past four years. It was sent to the Office of the Attorney General a few weeks ago for legal review. The Office has returned it to the Authority with some comments. The drafting team is currently in the final stages of tabling it to the Council of Ministers.

The amendment aims at strengthening the Authority in regulating unfair trade competition, according to Eshete Asfaw, state minister for Trade & Industry.

The existing proclamation entails that the Authority can investigate administrative and criminal cases. It also states that the tribunal can preside over criminal cases. However, after the establishment of the Office of the Attorney General in 2016, the power of prosecution and investigation was transferred from the Authority to the Attorney General and Federal Police Commission, respectively.

The new bill clarified that the Authority can only investigate and preside over administrative issues.

Some gaps need clarification on legal interpretations after the Attorney General took over the prosecution role, according to Alkadir Ibrahim, public relations director at the Authority, which was first established in 2010 and changed its name to its current form in 2013 with the last amendment.

The 24-page bill, which is classified into six parts with 61 sub-articles, adds immovable goods that are subjected to any kind of purchase or lease to the list. In the existing proclamation, the definition of goods was only limited to movable items.

Previously, the Authority was only mandated to announce changes in essential basic goods to the public; however, the new bill proposes all of the basic goods or services should be announced through public notice.

Currently, the Authority is only investigating and prosecuting businesses and business people. However, the new bill gave the Authority the power to investigate and prosecute associations and government institutions and corporations that are involved in any business activity.

With the new proclamation, export businesses, microfinance firms and activities that generate foreign exchange are exempted from the application of the anti-competitive trade practices and merger provision.

It categorises the former trade activities as vital for economic development. The Council of Ministers will identify the businesses.

Tewodros Mehret, an assistant professor at Addis Abeba University's School of Law & Governance, thinks the amendment will bring no major changes.

Tewodros believes that the Authority should have a clear mind on what the goals of the institution are and align the governing laws to that.

"Unless the problems are clearly identified," said Tewodros, "changing laws here and there won't make a difference."


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