British Virgin Islands

Monday, Oct 26, 2020

Penn pushes for antitrust legislation - Says current unfair trading could wipe out small businesses

Penn pushes for antitrust legislation - Says current unfair trading could wipe out small businesses

Leader of the Opposition, Marlon Penn is calling for antitrust legislation to be drafted to prevent small businesses from being wiped out under the pressure of larger players in their respective sectors.

This legislation — which Penn said would serve as support to the recently-introduced Consumer Protection legislation — would ensure fair competition among businesses.

Stating that local small businesses are already under threat, Penn described the matter as one of great importance.

“Premier, I urge you, we have to move swiftly to ensure that the antitrust legislation accompanies this [Consumer Protection] Bill.”

Unfair advantage

The Opposition Leader referred to North West, the parent company of Riteway food stores, who he said has an unfair advantage over smaller businesses such as restauranteurs.

North West … pretty much wipes out the small business community in that area,” Penn claimed.

“They are the wholesaler and they are the retailer, so they are selling you the product, and they’re still competing with you when you are trying to sell your product in the environment. That would not be allowed in a big economy like the US.”

“It even trickles down as far as food and selling food. They supply the food to the restaurants and still sell the same food within their stores. They cook the same food items,” Penn argued. “There’s no way that the little food place next door could sell a plate of food cheaper than Riteway is selling a plate of food because they’re buying their chicken from Riteway, they’re buying everything from Riteway so they can’t compete. Family-owned companies who have been around this territory for decades, generations who have passed on from generation to generation, who would virtually disappear if we do not do something about this antitrust behaviour.”

Ignore trade restrictions

The Opposition then accused the company of not adhering to the conditions of their trade licence that restrict such unfair dominance in the market.

He stated that, despite their restriction, North West are “still selling these goods and services”.

“When that [trade] license was issued [to North West], it was issued with some specific conditions in terms of their operations and how it should operate within this environment.”

“How can local businesses compete with a company that has outlets in the US, throughout the Caribbean, and in Canada?” Penn questioned.

“They (North West) have to make up their mind whether they want to be in the retail business, or they want to be in the wholesale business. You can’t have both. Premier, you have some work to do. You say that your government is for the people so let’s work for the people.”

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