Friday, February 26, 2021 - 12:57

COMPETITION LAW WITH KALA ANANDARAJAH

The veteran talks digitalisation and its impact on her practice area.

Kala

BY ASHUTOSH RAVIKRISHNAN

 The name Kala Anandarajah is synonymous with competition law, seeing as she’s one of Singapore’s most experienced names in the space. But that wasn’t always the case—when she entered practice about 30 years ago, she started in a litigation firm. “Then I decided I wanted to spend more time with the law, was told by an old friend of an opening in the research department of a major firm and joined them,” she tells SAL. “It was a very positive experience as it gave me the opportunity to work with so many excellent partners.”

While in research, she continued to keep her practice warm by working on life matters. At the dawn of the millennium, she moved to Rajah & Tann, where she has remained ever since. She initially juggled knowledge & risk management and practice at the firm, but eventually hunkered down into full-time practice around the time that the Competition Act was enacted in 2004. “Competition law is fantastic, especially for someone like me, who gets bored very easily,” explains Anandarajah, who now heads R&T’s competition & antitrust and trade practice.

“Every case, issue and company are different. Competition law is really about the ins and outs of business, coupled with economics, both of which I am very into. Understanding the nuances of the two and how the law interplays with them makes the practice of Competition Law exhilarating.”

Anandarajah’s legal acumen becomes obvious as she starts to discuss the impact of digitalisation on competition law. “Digitalisation has been a game-changer in that it has enabled new ways of doing business, which in turns affects market structures and the way in which businesses compete with one another, and consequently market definitions. Yet, the competition law is structured in general terms. This means that the same principles will apply, be it in the brick-and-mortar or digital worlds,” she shares, adding that she does not foresee a major overhaul of Singapore’s competition laws in response to digitalisation.

A public consultation spearheaded by the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) last year does suggest that certain areas of competition law are being reviewed and possibly updated. One of these relates to self-preferencing practices, which the European Union has come out strongly against. Anandarajah welcomes some of these changes and believes that these new regulations, if and when they come to pass, will equally apply to brick-and-mortar shops. “Digitalisation, like the famous Google Shopping case, may have brought about these changes but their application will still be uniform,” she adds.

Still, there are varying perspectives on the future evolution of Singapore’s competition laws—something which Anandarajah welcomes. “Nothing is really black-and-white, and it helps for different views and ideas to be shared,” she says, adding that next month’s webinar series on competition law will offer just this. “I am amongst an esteemed panel—with Ms Ng Ee Kia (CCCS), Prof Richard Whish QC, Mr Sangeet Choudary (Platformation Labs), Mr Christopher Y. Chan (Lazada) and Mr Warwick Davis (Frontier Economics). It’s a multidisciplinary panel which should give listeners the parameters to better understand how competition law will apply in the digital world—and perhaps they will see that whilst nuanced, it’s not a different creature altogether.”

As we close our conversation, we turn to a broader discussion on how digitalisation is changing her practice. She pauses before replying, “There are now complexities in how we gather data to do our economic and legal analyses to prove our case in the ecommerce world with big data et al—for regulators, that means showing that there is competition harm and for lawyers, to show that there isn’t.”

Determining this has become a far more rigorous exercise but in her usual matter-of-fact manner, she continues, “It’s something that we have to just get on board with.” Image removed.

Ms Kala Anandarajah spoke at the first edition Competition Law webinar series, jointly organised by the Singapore Academy of Law and the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore. There are four more sessions in the series, which covers topics like the impact of digitalisation and data on competition law, M&As, market definition and the enforcement of competition and consumer protection laws. Registrations are open now.

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