Turkish minister defends competition law criticised for threatening privacy

Turkish Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan defended a new law governing competition saying the government has harmonised legislation with European Union standards.

The law better meets the needs of dynamic markets and will attract foreign investors, Pekcan said on Wednesday, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency. The legal changes, which replace legislation first drawn up in the 1990s, take effect on Friday.

The governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) passed the new law through parliament last week. It allows the competition authority to inspect and make copies of sensitive company documents and data. The new rules will be applied in particular during investigations into monopolies, according to the legislation.

Turkey’s biggest businesses have warned the AKP and its political allies, the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), that they risk spooking investors by giving the competition authority such powers.

The law could reduce motivation for new investment and deter foreign investors and their partners from growing their businesses in Turkey, especially in sectors where data security is increasingly important, the Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD), which comprises Turkey’s largest companies, said in a letter to lawmakers earlier this month.

In the case of claims concerning violations of the right to competition, the new law will streamline the investigation process and allow companies to negotiate and find solutions with the competition authority, Pekcan said.

"This will ensure that the investigation process is shortened and concluded quickly, public costs caused by the litigation processes are reduced, and public resources are used more efficiently," she said.

There will also be new measures to counter monopolies, Pekcan said.

Companies will have to first get permission from the authority should they want to buy another firm or merge, she said.