Uber loses appeal against $5m fine imposed by Singapore competition watchdog for Grab deal

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash.

The Competition Appeal Board (CAB) of Singapore has given the bullet to Uber’s appeal against the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore’s (CCCS) decision that the ride-sharing platform’s sale of its Southeast Asian business to Grab violated the city state’s competition law.

CAB made the dismissal on Dec. 29, 2020, and upheld a S$6.58 million ($5 million) financial penalty imposed on Uber by the competition watchdog, according to a statement. In addition, Uber will have to pay CCCS’s costs in relation to its appeal.

In 2018, Uber exited its Southeast Asia operations to Grab in exchange for a 27.5% stake in the Singapore-based rival. The transaction was deemed to cause a substantial lessening of competition (SLC) in the ride-hailing market in Singapore by CCCS later in the year.

Grab did not contest CCCS’s infringement decision at the time, and paid a financial penalty of S$6.4 million. Meanwhile, Uber filed an appeal with CAB, seeking to either set aside the infringement decision or reduce the financial penalty.

“The CAB’s decision affirms the key findings made by CCCS in the infringement decision and reinforces the message that mergers that substantially lessen competition in Singapore are prohibited,” CCCS chief executive Sia Aik Kor said.

“While merger parties may perform a self-assessment to determine if their merger would lead to an SLC, they should apply to CCCS for guidance or a decision if they have concerns or are unsure as to whether their merger may result in an SLC,” she added.

Last year, under Singapore’s new point-to-point transport regulation, CCCS lifted the restrictions it had imposed on Grab in 2018 following its merger with Uber. The decision will let market forces define ride-hailing fare prices.

Meanwhile, the Grab-Uber merger triggered penalties in other Southeast Asian markets too. In October 2019, the Malaysia Competition Commission proposed a fine of over 86 million ringgit (then $20.5 million) on Grab for manipulating its dominant position to impose restrictive clauses on its drivers.

A year earlier, the Philippine antitrust watchdog also fined Grab Philippines and Uber a combined 16 million pesos (then $296,741) for their deal.

Vietnamese competition authorities found the transaction violating its law too. Grab has filed an appeal and this remains an ongoing case in Vietnam.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.