The Hong Kong Judiciary's proposed subsidiary legislation relating to the rules and procedures to be adopted by the Competition Tribunal (the "Proposed Rules") have been placed before the Legislative Council ("LegCo") Panel on Administration of Justice and Legal Services for consideration at its meeting on 16 February 2015. The Proposed Rules will govern the operation of the Competition Tribunal, which is the tribunal established by the Competition Ordinance (Cap. 619) with jurisdiction to hear and determine competition-law related matters.
This latest development follows a period of consultation between the Judiciary and various stakeholders, including the Hong Kong Bar Association, the Law Society of Hong Kong, the Competition Commission and the Communications Authority, on how the Competition Tribunal should operate.
The Proposed Rules consist of four sets of draft procedural and fees rules:
- The Competition Tribunal Rules
- Amendments to the Rules of the High Court
- The Competition Tribunal Fees Rules
- The Competition Tribunal Suitors' Funds Rules
The Competition Tribunal Rules form the core of the Proposed Rules and contain general procedural rules for the Competition Tribunal, such as rights of audience (at present, the rights of audience at the Competition Tribunal will mirror those of the Court of First Instance). The Competition Tribunal Rules also set out rules specific to proceedings arising from the Competition Ordinance, such as enforcement applications, follow-on actions and reviews of the Competition Commissions' reviewable determinations. The general approach taken with the Competition Tribunal Rules is for their harmonisation with the existing Rules of the High Court. The Rules of the High Court will act as a "fall-back" position in proceedings before the Competition Tribunal should the Competition Tribunal Rules not contain a provision on a procedural issue.
Amendments to the Rules of the High Court have also been proposed to provide for the transfer of proceedings between the Competition Tribunal and the Court of First Instance, as set out in the Competition Ordinance. Finally, the Competition Tribunal Fees Rules and the Competition Tribunal Suitors' Funds Rules govern the various fees paid by users of the Competition Tribunal and the handling of suitors' funds by the Competition Tribunal. These rules are modelled on the existing subsidiary legislation applicable to the High Court.
Subsequent to consideration by the LegCo Panel, a LegCo Committee may be formed to scrutinise the Proposed Rules, before they are gazetted and tabled at the LegCo for negative vetting.
Setting up this new judicial body and its governing rules is a key step in the preparations for the Competition Ordinance coming into force later this year. The first enforcement proceedings brought before the Competition Tribunal by the Competition Commission will be a test of how the rules work in practice.