ECONOMY

Watchdog?s goal: open markets

The Competition Commission will have to shoulder a significant part of the burden in the drive to combat inflation and liberalize markets and professions, as both issues rank high on the Development Ministry?s agenda. The independent authority will be focusing on five main areas through the end of the year: fuel, fruit and vegetables, natural gas, and the construction and poultry cartels.

The intervention of the commission on a regulatory level in the fuel market is proceeding at a rapid pace, with its survey of the market expected to be completed ahead of schedule by end-October. The government and its creditors are relying of the conclusions of this survey as the cost of energy has a major effect on the level of prices in general.

The commission?s report on the fresh fruit and vegetables sector is not expected to be completed before December. Besides possible findings regarding cartels operating in various parts of this market, the survey?s overall results may well lead to changes to the legislation regarding the produce market.

One of the cases expected to be wrapped up within the next few weeks is that of Public Gas Corporation (DEPA). The Competition Commission is investigating a complaint by Aluminium of Greece about restricted access to natural gas and intends to end its investigation before the November deadline for binding offers in DEPA?s privatization.

October 29 will also see the start of a hearing regarding the commission?s findings about a cartel in the poultry market involving 10 producers and one cooperative that allegedly fixed wholesale and retail prices from 1996 to 2010. The commission will also start examining on November 1 the possible existence of a cartel in the construction sector, which allegedly controlled house prices and supply from 2002 to 2009 in Attica.