Competition law seeks to maintain or promote market competition by regulating anti-competitive conduct by companies. It is known as antitrust law in the United States (US) and the European Union (EU) or as anti-monopoly law (in China and Russia).

Development of Modern Competition Law

Competition law can be traced to the Roman Empire. An early example of competition law can be found in Roman law, where the Lex Julia de Annona was enacted around 50BC to protect grain trade, with heavy fines imposed on anyone directly and deliberately stopping supply ships. In 1889 Canada enacted what is considered the first competition statute of modern times called The Act for the Prevention and Suppression of Combinations formed in Restraint of Trade. A year later the USA enacted what is considered the most famous legal statute on competition law, the Sherman Act of 1890. The Sherman Act sought to prohibit the restriction of competition by large companies that conspired with rivals to fix outputs, prices and market shares. Section 1 of the Act declared unlawful “every contract, in the form of trusts or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations.” Section 2 of the Act prohibits monopolies or any attempts and conspiracies to monopolize.

Since the 20th century, competition law has become global. The two largest and most influential systems of competition regulation are the US antitrust law and the EU competition law. The substance and practice of competition law varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. However, protecting the interests of consumers (consumer welfare) and ensuring that entrepreneurs have an opportunity to compete in a market economy (where decisions relating to investment, production and distribution are based on supply and demand, and the prices of goods and services are determined in a free price system, with little government intervention) are often treated as important objectives. 

Dr Innocent Maja can be contacted on innocent@majasque.com or +2634776306. www.majasque.com
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