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PCC: No findings yet on Grab pricing issue

The Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) could still not make any conclusive findings on whether Grab had significantly lowered its prices a year after it bought Uber, as the antitrust body was not even sure if Grab’s data were reliable.

In August last year, the PCC put Grab Philippines under monitoring following its acquisition of Uber, its biggest competitor in the local market.

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Done by an independent trustee, the monitoring is meant to cover a period of one year, during which Grab’s performance will be measured against its operations before the buyout deal in March last year.

Through this, the PCC was hoping to see how far Grab had gone in restoring competition in the market, which should be similar to when Uber was still operating in the country.

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For now, PCC Commissioner Johannes Bernabe said they were focusing on Grab’s fares, given how important the issue of pricing was to consumers.

The problem, however, is that half a year worth of data from the monitoring report could not lead to any conclusive findings, he said. This is mainly because of questions surrounding the reliability of the data submitted by Grab.

“The data were supposed to be in their [Grab’s] system. So we’re dependent on that,” Bernabe told the Inquirer in a chance interview last week.

“To the extent that it is generated by the system, it should be reliable. If it’s not within the system and it was generated some other way, then we have to determine whether that’s a credible way of preparing that data,” he added.

This is not the first time that PCC has flagged Grab’s data. Last January, PCC fined Grab with P6.5 million for submitting “deficient, inconsistent, and incorrect data for the monitoring.”

He said PCC was still trying to understand certain issues about the data that Grab gave the independent trustee, such as how Grab came up with its pricing figures before and after the buyout deal.

“So unless we are certain that the methodology is the same, we can’t make any conclusive findings at this point. The same problem [still exists] in the second quarter,” he said.

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A PCC representative clarified that its monitoring report in the first quarter covered the period Aug. 10 to Nov. 10, 2018. The second quarter report, meanwhile, covered Nov. 11, 2018  to Feb. 10, 2019.

In response to charges that it submitted “deficient, inconsistent, and incorrect data for the monitoring,” Grab said in a statement in January that  it had “very limited time” to work on the data. Grab also questioned the fine slapped on it by the PCC then.

“Is that a sufficient response? They made the voluntary commitments,” Bernabe said, noting the conditions that Grab had committed to comply with in exchange for PCC’s clearance of the buyout deal.

After being fined last January, Bernabe said Grab had “attempted to make corrections.” It’s not clear at this point why those corrections are not enough.

After seeing the monitoring reports, Bernabe said they sought clarifications from the company’s trustees on certain issues. He, however, did not give details on the said issues.

When asked if this was the fault of international firm Smith & Williamson, the independent trustee that had also handled high-profile cases overseas, he said “it’s not the trustee, because the trustee is only going to work with the data that it gets its hands on.”

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TAGS: Business, Grab, Philippine Competition Commission (PCC)
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