Philippine antitrust watchdog fines Grab for post-merger audit intervention

Grab Philippines was fined US$124,000 for sending incorrect data about its pricing.

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Southeast Asian ride-hailing giant Grab is taking a new blow from the Philippine’s antitrust watchdog as the latter claimed today the tech unicorn has compromised an audit investigating into its fair pricing and service quality commitments by submitting “deficient, inconsistent, and incorrect data”.

The Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) fined Grab 6.5 million pesos (US$124,000) for the violation, said Arsenio Balisacan, chairman of the Philippine Competition Commission.

Balisacan said it was Grab that offered to adhere to a set of price and service-quality commitments through quarterly monitoring conducted by an independent monitoring trustee.

However, the commission found that Grab Philippines submitted problematic data which was supposed to be part of the monitoring of the ride-hailing firm’s compliance with its voluntary commitments. The PCC, however, did not say how incorrect or grave Grab’s actions are.

In a statement to the media, Grab Philippines president Brian Cu said the deadline given to them by the antitrust watchdog was very limited.

“PCC required us to submit our post-transaction data and given the nature and the huge volume of data that we need to extract and prepare, Grab was working under very limited timelines to meet PCC’s deadline,” he said.

He also questioned the amount of fines slapped by the PCC. “Three out of four penalties were set at a maximum amount of P2 million each. Given the breakdown of the fines vis-a-vis the severity of the lapses alleged by the PCC, we would like to better understand PCC’s rationale for imposing a maximum penalty,” he said.

The ride-hailing giant has until February 7 to file a motion for reconsideration on the fine.

This is Grab’s second blow from the Philippine’s antitrust agency over a short span of four months as the company has been locking horns with its archrival Go-Jek in a regional expansion competition.

Last October, the same agency fined Grab Philippines and Uber a combined P16 million (about US$297,000) for violating pre-merger conditions, such as keeping separate business operations and holding off the merger while the PCC’s review was ongoing.

Also in July last year, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), the country’s transport regulator, fined Grab P10 million (US$190,000) for alleged overcharging – adding P2 per minute on top of its approved fees – and ordered the ride-hailing firm to reimburse its patrons through rebates.

Grab has appealed the decision, saying it had informed the LTFRB on the company’s fair matrix, specifically the contested P2-per-minute charge.

The PCC approved the Grab-Uber deal in August but had imposed rules to protect pricing and service quality in the local market.

Despite the stringent regulations that Grab has to face in the Philippines, it will continue to be the dominating ride-hailing operator in the country after the LTFRB early this  month denied Go-Jek’s planned entry into the local market due to alleged violation of foreign ownership rules.

Editor: Ben Jiang