A PYMNTS Company

CPI TV Ten Minutes With SIC Superintendent Andrés Barreto

 |  August 10, 2021

Below, we have provided the full transcript of the interview with Andrés Barreto, Superintendent of the Colombian Competition Authority, the Superintendencia de Industria y Comercio (SIC), recorded on July 15, 2021.

This is part of a series of videos that CPI is producing where we will interview the heads of various NCAs all around the world.

Thank you, Superintendent Barretofor sharing your time for this interview with CPI.

A video of the complete interview is available HERE.



Hi everyone. And thanks for tuning in today for one of our exclusive talks with the head of competition authorities from around the world. Today, we have the pleasure to have Mr. Andrés Barreto, Superintendent of Industry and Commerce at the Colombian Competition Authority. Good morning, Mr. Barreto, and thanks so much for being with us today.



Thank you so much, Elisa and Competition Policy International, for this opportunity.


Thank you. I’d like to start off today by asking how has your competition authority dealt with the pandemic crisis and are there any learning experiences that you would like to share with us today?


Thank you. Well, it was a challenge for all of us, I guess in area authority in Colombia. We tried to approach it from a very cautious point of view. Of course, it was a huge challenge to start looking for, for products or conduct or what people might start alerting the authority in order to sometimes confuse what is competition violation versus what was happening in the world with distribution and certain products. So we had the chance to have implemented before a good technological platform that allows us to monitor prices, invoices, and how the commerce behaved. Second, we try to focus our requirements in certain products, of course, what has to do with medical equipment medicines and others in order to try to prevent or avoid any type of violation of the competition regime and for the first time, and of course, getting traction for many of her fellow colleagues in other agencies, what we did is that we issue our resolution that for the first time allowed competitors to have agreements in order to improve the distribution of certain products, as long as they could approve us, that the welfare of the consumer was duly protected.

Unfortunately, we just had one agreement presented to our authority, which is now in, we are revising and overlooking it, but I think it wasn’t any novelty tool that we learned from other fellow agencies in order to implement in Colombia for the first time it was done. And of course this is still in force, so people can still gain traction from that resolution. So for us, it was basically several tools, one technology and monitoring prices, secondly, working alongside your authority in order to avoid certain voices that wanted to regulate certain prices and how it will affect the economy in the end. Of course, we keep that with working with the fighting, for instance, for the mergers and acquisitions, what had to do with many of the, of the hearings that we conducted. And unfortunately, what we learned as well is that our counterparts or lawyers were the ones who wanted to come presently to the authority in order to conduct hearings.

But we had a very robust technological platform that allows us to conduct it like these interviews individually. So I think they had to learn the long way that due to sacrificed due processor sacrifice the quality of the procedures if you do it virtually. So in the end, I think it was a mixture of this. We launch a 311 information requests. We had 122 virtual hearings. We objected to integration operation for mergers and acquisition, and we of course, made a very interesting task force, with the General Prosecutor in Colombia and other authorities in order to try to prevent any conduct.


Of course, the pandemic it was such an unprecedented situation, and it is very meaningful to see that this didn’t stop your agency’s activity and, on the contrary, it was the opportunity to put in place new tools. You mentioned more than 300 investigations and over a hundred virtual hearings were carried out and those numbers are already suggesting a great enforcement action. Do you have any particular achievement that you would like to underline and mention?


Well, I think the two technological platforms were a huge achievement. One is called Sabueso in Spanish, Bloodhound in English. And we had another one that monitors prices in order to try to use technology because people tend to think that all the investigations have to be conducted in C2. And of course it will be a huge mistake. And of course we wouldn’t be effective if that was the case. So the launching of the two technological platforms was very good. Second, we launched an app for the mobile phones and other technologies in order for people to present their denounces, or their requests online. So that gain has the possibility to see if we had certain behaviors that will create an alert for the authority. And thirdly, the possibility of conducting those hearings virtually and filing everything that had to do with competition, investigations and mergers and acquisitions. I think it was a huge success. Of course, if anything good came from the pandemic it was that the technological leap was a must for all of us.


And this leads me exactly to the following question, which is about the technology sector. Of course, the tech industry has been a big player during the pandemic, helping us to carry out several activities that would have been otherwise prevented and very much precluded. On the other hand, the tech industry has under scrutiny by pretty much everywhere in the world. I wonder, what is your view on the challenges posed by the technology sector? And do you think there is a need for reforms?


Well, in Colombia, we have a very particular case, which is the fact that these authorities, the superintendents, as well as being the competition authorities, is also the consumer protection authority and the data protection authority. So, in the beginning, people tend to think if this was useful or if this was on, this was a huge load of work for an authority, Colombia gaining access to the OECD and seeing what the debates around the world are about competition and big tick. India showed us that it was very interesting for us in order to learn, to have the three authorities in just one, one entity. So for us, it was interesting because there’re many issues that had to be tackled for instance, nowadays, the discussion in, in Europe about the digital tax reform, what has happened in the US and what is happening in the Latin American region.

So we have to keep a balance between having commercial treaties and having commercial obligations with the US and Europe, having a very big jump population that is now using these technologies, having a huge market for those technologies. And many of those companies, Facebook is the most relevant actually in Colombia, WhatsApp is a relevant actor. And what happened during the pandemic is that TikTok as well. And WhatsApp were very, very useful for many people. So we have two challenges: first of all, to see it from the competition perspective, how not to choke that evolution, to choke those authorities, but of course, to protect and preserve competition, which is nowadays the discussion outside the borders of Colombia. Secondly, how we understand that virtual competitions and how algorithms work and how that might impact e-commerce and maybe the consumer protection authority, how we have that challenge to protect consumers in order to improve competition.

And from the data protection perspective, it was the biggest challenge because of course, if you’re using these technologies, you have these discussions, many of the peoples tend to mistake what are enforcement powers are in those areas and have you can manage them. However, in Colombia, we have a very challenging issue, which is the fact that for instance, technologies such as Uber and other platforms, for transportation are forbidden by law. So, from the competition point of view, we don’t have any issues with that. Unfortunately, on to regulation and judges change what the regulatory landscape or the reality in Colombia is for us. It’s very hard, but I do think that not having ‘Big Tech’ in Colombia shouldn’t be a handicap in order for us not to learn what is happening in the world, try to contribute to that discussion. And of course, understand that data protection. We have been very effective in order to tackle infractions, learn about consumer protection and try to get traction or gain a space in the big tech discussion around the world.


And, in your view, what are, aside the technology sector, other industries that deserve enforcement attention or scrutiny?


Well, in Colombia, we have learned lessons about what the common practices or infractions to competition are. Unfortunately, we have lots of collusions. Instead, today there are big riggings. Just today, as we speak, we just sanctioned another one of those. We have had, in the three years that I have been in office, almost 32 cases, many of them bid rigging. So I do think that public bidding’s, public contracts, anywhere it has to do in Colombia with infrastructure is something that we have to look upon. We have very interesting international cases that have had traction in Colombia, and we have had two denounces. So maybe we will have two more cases about football. We had the Colombian version of FIFA gate about ticketing for the 2018 world cup. We have had received two other denounces about the football market. And it’s something that has had traction in the EU in Mexico with COFECE and in Paraguay.

So unfortunately, we see that football or sports is something that we have to look upon. And of course, what has to do with compliance. It has been a crusade of this administration in order to try to bring a good compliance in order to tackle ex-ante infractions or make it remedies when you are sanctioned through a good compliance program, and now recently the OECD updated the guidelines of the compliance programs and the DOJ did the same thing. Peru’s INDECOPI did the same. So I think we need the right track to look at compliance from a tool perspective, exactly unexposed as remedies or the possibility for you to offer what we call warranties, or are they for persecution in order to present those programs. So I think, that will be the path. And that’s what we’re looking upon.


This brings us to the last question. You mentioned several times before how the Colombian Competition Authority, on one hand, is looking at other authorities and jurisdictions trying to learn from their experience, on the other hand, your authority has been an active voice within the international landscape. So, what do you think will be the future direction, both domestically and internationally, for antitrust enforcement?


Well, in the internal perspective, I do think that we have to work. Hand-in-hand the general prosecutor and the other authorities in order to try to improve our leniency program. That is a huge challenge that we have here in Colombia. We’re taking the steps with the general attorney’s office in order to understand that they are the enforcers from the criminal side of the law. And we are the enforcers from the administrative side of the law. But in the end, we are the prosecutors in both cases. So I do think an improvement in leniency is very important and that goes hand-in-hand with what I just told you about compliance I do think it’ll be a very good tool and we’ll improve the numbers with the authority, but of course, tackling infractions. And from the external perspective or the international perspective, I do think that it has been a huge success of this administration.

The international approach that we have had, we had a very important and interesting international offers office commanded by Ms. Christina Rodriguez, who has done a wonderful job here. We have gained full access to the OECD nowadays. We’re part not only of the Competition Committee, the Consumer Protection Committee, and the Digital Economy Committee, but for the first time in  Colombia, myself, I’m a part of the world. So that’s a huge improvement from the international point of view and a huge commitment with our fellow colleagues in the OECD. The last meeting that the ICN held presence, the presence was here in Colombia. So in the end, we gained the possibility to bring more than 50 authorities around the world and had bilateral meetings. However, interesting feeling of what that is, and that Colombia is trying to go in the right way, learning from bigger authorities, more robust authorities, more ancient authorities.

But we do think that we can bring something to the table. So that work in the OECD, the ICN, learning from fellow colleagues, we’re signing as many MOU’s as we can with other authorities trying to improve is the biggest or the best approach in the international arena. However, I do think, and it’s something I have raised in, in the OECD and the ICN, me being there or having the three possibilities in the three areas, competition, consumer and protection, we need to learn from it. We need to look into that in order to learn and see how that improves our investigations or our working competition. And the other is try to promote international cooperation and enforcement because in big case such as football or others that are in different jurisdictions. We still have a bit of a handicap in that. So I do think cooperation and enforcement is vital for competition.


Thank you. This has been very interesting and informative. Thank you again, Mr. Barreto for being with us today and sharing the Colombian experience with CPI’s audience.


Thank you so much, Elisa. Thank you for your time.