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With potential Grab-Gojek merger, time to rein in tech giants in S’pore before they become too big

The United States has sued technology firms Google and Facebook over alleged violations of antitrust laws, while China is drafting new antitrust guidelines to rein in tech giants such as Alibaba and Tencent.

With potential Grab-Gojek merger, time to rein in tech giants in S’pore before they become too big

The writer urges the authorities in Singapore to do more to rein in technology giants such as Grab.

Tan Kok Lim

The United States has sued technology firms Google and Facebook over alleged violations of antitrust laws, while China is drafting new antitrust guidelines to rein in tech giants such as Alibaba and Tencent.

Antitrust laws protect consumers from predatory business activities, such as monopolies, and ensure fair competition. 

The reports that have emerged of a potential merger between Grab and Gojek are alarming.

If the merger happens, it will likely create a monopoly in the local ride-hailing sector.

The two firms may then dictate prices that commuters pay when using their services. Private-hire car drivers will be at their mercy, too.

I sincerely hope that the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS), which is looking into the matter, can evaluate these potential problems thoroughly and put a stop to any potential merger.  

Grab’s 2018 merger with ride-hailing firm Uber’s Southeast Asian business already offers lessons. 

The deal infringed competition laws, with CCCS noting that Grab had raised its fares after the merger by 10 to 15 per cent, excluding rider promotions. Grab maintained that it had not.

Furthermore, GrabFood — Grab’s food delivery arm — is becoming a dominant player in the food delivery business here.

Taking a page out of its ride-hailing playbook, it is not far-fetched to imagine GrabFood eventually merging with other players here. 

Last week, the Monetary Authority of Singapore announced that a consortium between Grab and telecommunications firm Singtel was among the companies awarded digital banking licences in Singapore.

With this win, Grab is muscling into yet another arena. With more and more feathers in its cap, Grab appears to be becoming too big to handle.

The US and Chinese governments are trying to rein in tech giants and their rapidly growing influence. I strongly urge the Singapore Government to do likewise.

Do not allow a business to grow even bigger now and have a tough time reining it in down the road.

Revisions to the Competition Act should also be made to tighten regulations governing tech companies to ensure fair competition. These could include building in provisions to make tech firms divest their businesses if they become too big.

Right now, in its lawsuits against Facebook, the US is urging the courts to stop the social network from pressing ahead with its allegedly anti-competitive behaviour, curtail major new acquisitions by Facebook, and compel it to sell its key platforms, such as WhatsApp and Instagram.

With Singapore’s authorities doing more to prevent anti-competitive moves, new players and start-ups can be given a fair chance to survive and grow in Singapore.

Have views on this issue or a news topic you care about? Send your letter to voices [at] mediacorp.com.sg with your full name, address and phone number.

Related topics

Grab Gojek Big Tech CCCS

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