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Advancing Competition in a Changing Marketplace

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Competition Bureau | Oct 10, 2018

Speech

Remarks by Interim Commissioner of Competition Matthew Boswell

Global Series 2018
October 10, 2018
Ottawa, Ontario

Thank you. I’m pleased to be here to speak with you today.

Thank you Makan, for your thoughts on these important issues. They are particularly relevant to businesses, the legal community, academia and governments around the world and to all of you who are gathered here today.

Every day we see the world evolving at a rapid pace, thanks to innovation.  Development of new technologies, ways of doing business and the creation of new products have the potential to open up new areas of science, medicine and technology. Small steps lead to bigger steps.  And here in Canada, we have to be ready for both the challenges and opportunities that this is bringing to all of us.

Let’s understand what we are up against. Every year, innovation in the top industrialized countries is tracked by leading authorities on the subject. And here’s what they report about Canada in 2018.

On the plus side, Canada performs better than some others in four big areas: Human Capital and Research, Institutions, Infrastructure, and Market Sophistication.

See:  Canada’s ‘innovation economy’ has been over-hyped and needs a reality check

From there, the news gets a little grey. Overall, we rank 17th among 47 high-income countries. That’s like getting a B-minus report card.

We score lower on three measures: Knowledge and Technology Outputs, Business Sophistication and Creative Outputs.

In other words, there’s a gap between what we put in and what we get out of our innovation efforts.

So why the gap?

At the Competition Bureau, we’ve asked ourselves that question and have considered carefully what we can contribute to help solve this innovation dilemma. After all: innovation in the economy is a priority for the Government of Canada. It’s an all-hands-on-deck challenge.

So for the Bureau, our innovation focus is on building our knowledge base and strengthening our enforcement capacity.

Why we do this is what’s really important to understand.

Imagine a well-functioning economy as the Starship Enterprise, with innovation thriving thanks to strong, unimpeded competition.  Captain Kirk will take risks, forge ahead and break new ground – sometimes in a disruptive fashion. Mr. Spock, on the other hand, ensures rules are followed, in a logical and predictable fashion. Just like Spock and Kirk, competition and innovation work better together.

Competition drives businesses to innovate and helps spread the gains they make throughout the economy. On the other hand, if competition is impeded, the economy may be harmed. Conduct or mergers that may harm competition are like roadblocks that could hold back innovation.

The Bureau helps clear those roadblocks. We do that by administering and enforcing the law. Fairly. And predictably. That means:

  • taking action against anti-competitive behaviour and deceptive marketing practices;
  • reviewing mergers to ensure they don’t hurt competition; and
  • empowering consumers and businesses.

And what about innovation? Why do we care so much about it? You don’t have to look far to find the answer.

See:  NCFA: Canada Needs a Harmonized Securities Environment as Current Provincial Approach is a Fintech Innovation Killer

The huge gains made from innovation create a lucrative race to the top. Those that innovate are often rewarded with a larger market share. We see plenty of examples in businesses worldwide about how to do that.

In Amazon’s early days, Jeff Bezos channelled company profits back into research and development, fuelling innovation there. Chatting with Alexa and having groceries shipped to your door are just two of many outcomes.

Apple famously steered their way back from bankruptcy by pledging to “innovate our way out of this.” By executing on that pledge, they changed the way we think about mobile phones and computers.

In the music industry, Spotify launched a freemium streaming application in 2008. Today, music streaming is the norm in how we listen to music online and share it legally with others.

We’ve never before been this deeply connected across the country and around the world—doing more with data and turning it into knowledge. Globally we’ve never before seen such overall improvements in education, life expectancy and quality of life as we have in just the last forty years.

The Government has a role in creating the right climate for bold ideas to take root and grow. One way this is done is by passing and enforcing competition and intellectual property laws.

Let’s take a minute and talk specifically about the Bureau’s approach to enforcement and advocacy for competition, innovation and intellectual property.

First, we reduce barriers to entry. That means those entering the market are less likely to be shut out by bigger existing firms. And those who are thinking of entering don’t see roadblocks that deter them from giving it a shot.

See:  Competition Bureau weighs in on fintech: urgent action required

Next, we make it easier for those newcomers to grow and for incumbents to innovate. That sometimes means preventing mergers that would otherwise significantly lessen or prevent competition. That way, incumbents have an incentive to invest in innovation so that they can compete on the strength of their product or service.

At the Bureau, we support those businesses who seek to compete by legitimate means. Here are a couple of recent examples that support our approach.

...

Addressing FinTech

Another area of study for the Bureau has been on FinTech. We studied the industry for 18 months and published a Market Study report in December 2017. There, we made 30 recommendations to Canada’s regulators and policy makers. Eleven of these focused more broadly on how to strike the right balance in regulation to ensure Canadians are protected while also promoting innovation.

One of these recommendations was that regulation should be tech neutral and device agnostic – not, for example, limited to one type of device. Many consumers still face instances where service providers require face-to-face interactions to collect personal information and verify identity.

But the Internet and mobile computing have changed how consumers wish to consume services—and how providers provide them.

In practice, we saw the B.C. Securities Commission release a consultation in February 2018 on its Securities Law Framework for FinTech Regulation which focused on a number of regulatory challenges.

See:  Nov 20, 2017: NCFA Canada Welcomes Competition Bureau’s recommendations to encourage competition and innovation in Canada’s financial services sector

In our submission to their consultation, we applauded the BCSC’s consideration of automation to meet compliance obligations for “know-your-client” assessments.

This signals a shift away from relying on face-to-face conversations to ensure compliance. It paves the way for automation and artificial intelligence to improve the quality and efficiency of investment advice that is tailored to each customer.

This is only one example of the changes we’ve seen since the release of our Market Study Report.

Making the case for humility on what we regulate

Advances in technology make the future hard to predict. Recent history has shown us plenty of examples of seemingly unassailable products that have been overtaken by innovative new products, such as Canada’s BlackBerry. These advances illustrate the increased importance of an evidence-based approach.

In 2015, former FTC Chair Maureen Ohlhausen warned against prescriptive regulation. She said: “We need to make every effort to tolerate complex phenomena and to develop institutions that are robust in the face of rapid innovation.”

In my view, this means we must take a careful approach to how we address certain issues. As I’ve said before, our focus should be to do no harm and not to overreach.  At the same time, we are guided by the strength of our institutions in setting sensible rules and enforcing them.

Antitrust enforcement does not and should not address all problems.

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The National Crowdfunding & Fintech Association (NCFA Canada) is a financial innovation ecosystem that provides education, market intelligence, industry stewardship, networking and funding opportunities and services to thousands of community members and works closely with industry, government, partners and affiliates to create a vibrant and innovative fintech and funding industry in Canada. Decentralized and distributed, NCFA is engaged with global stakeholders and helps incubate projects and investment in fintech, alternative finance, crowdfunding, peer-to-peer finance, payments, digital assets and tokens, blockchain, cryptocurrency, regtech, and insurtech sectors. Join Canada's Fintech & Funding Community today FREE! Or become a contributing member and get perks. For more information, please visit: www.ncfacanada.org

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