Bottom Shekel / Help wanted: Must be feisty and uncompromising
Ronit Kan is wrapping up her service as antitrust commissioner. Most of the time, Kan managed to keep consumers in the same position they were in before. There are mitigating circumstances for the limited results she has to show. She was fighting with limited and outdated weaponry against the most powerful forces in the economy. Under these conditions, even marching in place against the tide of monopolies and oligopolies is an accomplishment of sorts.
The telecommunications market still lacks sufficient competition, and cell phone rates here are still among the highest in the world. The car retailing business has just recently been opened to additional importers (and not necessarily because of the Antitrust Authority ).
There has been improvement in the airlines industry, but everyone knows the struggle involved in trying to disconnect from a television service. The real estate market is still hot. In industries such as cement, inexplicably, there is a monopoly, while there are no new competitors on the horizon in the credit card business, and the examples go on and on.
To Kan's credit, her finding in April of last year that the banks had coordinated fees among themselves in an anticompetitive manner was courageous and precedent-setting.
Unfortunately, efforts to neutralize the banking oligopoly (if it in fact exists ) have gotten bogged down in the antitrust tribunal, where the banks have attacked the commissioner's finding. The antitrust laws need to be overhauled and Kan did not manage to accomplish this.
Competition in the marketplace is not a natural state of being. On the contrary, a monopoly can rule the market and exact its price from the consumer while supplying a product or service of inferior quality, and the profits then flow to those who control the monopoly. And then they may pay lobbyists to block changes to the law that would infringe on their monopolistic powers. The difficulty in increasing the powers of the Antitrust Authority is an indication of the immense power with which Kan has had to contend.
So bearing in mind the problem of economic concentration, Kan's successor should not only have an understanding of economics and law but must also be someone who is feisty and uncompromising.
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