| 1 July 2020

COVID-19 and Competition and Consumer Protection

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Consumers are at a substantially higher risk of being disadvantaged—deliberately or inadvertently—as a consequence of COVID-19, and the already fragile process of competition in Pacific markets is likely to be damaged.

Pacific consumers face additional anxiety and uncertainty, while traders and businesses face increased commercial pressures and more challenging trading conditions. Disruptions to the supply of essential goods and services, elevated prices, fraud, misleading conduct, and unfair trading terms are all potential impacts of the crisis on consumers.

Effective consumer protection and competition law—enforced by the responsible agencies—and awareness-raising efforts will protect vulnerable consumers at this time and reduce consumer vulnerabilities in the future.

PSDI’s Competition and Consumer Protection focus area works to ensure these safeguards are in place and provides support to competition commissions on appropriate courses of action to minimize consumer vulnerabilities during this crisis and in the future. 

COVID-19 is also challenging the viability of businesses—increasing the rate of closures, mergers, and takeovers—which could cause market distortion. Governments may respond to the crisis by allowing businesses some additional flexibility to remain viable. Still, these should be short-term and limited in scope if market competitiveness is to be maintained.

PSDI provides ongoing support and advice to competition authorities to minimize market manipulation and distortion and help protect the nascent process of competition in the Pacific from the impacts of COVID-19. This assistance will help ensure competitive markets can continue to develop during the region’s economic recovery.

PSDI has published three posts considering the impacts of COVID-19 on competition and consumer protection in the Pacific. See “Retail Pricing in the Pacific During the Covid-19 Pandemic”,  “Consumer Protection in Pacific Countries in the Wake of COVID-19”, and "Competition in the Wake of Covid-19: Supporting Pacific MSMEs."

For more information on PSDI's COVID-19 activities, click here.