OPINION

Zero tolerance of cartel practices

The message of zero tolerance for cartel practices issued by Neelie Kroes, the visiting European competition commissioner, was not just aimed at Greece’s Competition Commission. Sure, the market watchdog was urged to conduct an in-depth investigation and not succumb to outside pressures, but it was also a message to the conservative administration that it must give the commission a free rein to clamp down on illicit practices that poison healthy competition and drain consumers of their incomes. Moreover, the warning was directed to the current leadership of the Federation of Greek Industries (SEV), calling on it to throw its weight behind the war on price fixing, which, at the end of the day, runs against the federation’s own agenda. SEV’s declared aim is the deregulation of the market. Deregulation does not just concern the state but also private companies that undercut free competition. There’s nothing too complicated here. The free market works for the majority as long as it is left to work freely. Greece’s free competition watchdog is still in an embryonic stage. Monitoring officials are trying to curb illegal practices but they still lack the experience of other countries. Some people exploit the inevitable loopholes. The result is price fixing which makes rich people richer and poor people poorer. The commissioner backed the commission but at the same time she called for faster responses to such phenomena and heavy punishment for wrongdoers. Kroes’s message must first reach the ears of businesspeople and their federation.