Grab & Uber: Is The Competition Watchdog Just Buying Time For Itself?

Grab CEO and Co-Founder Anthony Tan

Obbana Rajah

The Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) has received much criticism on the merger between Grab and Uber.

One camp of people claim that it has failed in its role of preventing this monopolistic takeover by Grab.

Those of the opposing camp commiserate with the organisation that has done barely anything, but issue interim measures while they ‘look into’ the matter.

However, as the body appointed to weed out issues in competition and to ensure a contestable market, what exactly have they been doing but buying time for themselves?

There are those who say that after bowing out of the Chinese market and selling its operations to Didi, the prevalent ride-hailing service there, the sinking ship that is Uber would have been hard to miss from a mile away.

Another reason why the CCCS should have had both its eyes open when dealing with this issue is because Singapore is no stranger to taxi wars.

Now that Uber staff have been sacked, drivers transferred over to Grab, and the merger already in process, is it not too late for CCCS to step-in and mitigate the waste of resources, time and jobs?

Maybe the CCCS were waiting for cold, hard evidence. Actual proof of a monopoly. Maybe they wanted to be reactionary and be sure before striking.

Yes, all that is fine.

But, the transaction between Uber and Grab took place on the 25th of March, almost a month ago. Grab and Uber prices were hardly stable and evidence points towards a monopoly.

So why is CCCS still waiting and what exactly are they doing during this time?

Another piece to this puzzle is the Land Transport Authority (LTA). In March, they too have said that they will “ensure that no one single market player dominates the sector to the detriment of commuters and drivers”. The way things seem, the current presence of Uber in the market alone does not take away from a single player dominating the market.

It is just a lot of talk (and waiting) with very little action happening.