Shifting its focus away from basic industries and commodities, the fair trade watchdog Competition Commission of India (CCI) will now undertake intense analysis of multisided high-technology markets involving network industry and more complex markets requiring greater understanding of economic theories, anti-trust analysis and theories of harm, a top CCI official said at an ASSOCHAM event held in New Delhi.
“Recent development about net-neutrality and other high-tech issues is an area where the Commission will be stressing this thing,” said SL Bunker, Member, CCI while inaugurating 3rd International Conference on ‘Competition Law: Successes, challenges & reforms,’ organised by The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM).
“Without undermining importance of what the Commission has already done, I would like to highlight that so far enforcement has been mainly focussed on basic industries and commodities,” said Bunker.
“In combination and mergers & acquisitions (M&As) side there has been lot of work, the Commission has been very-very proactive and so far we have already approved around 250 cases in a remarkable self-imposed time schedule of less than 30 days,” said Bunker.
“Commission puts its best efforts to ensure that merger regime is not viewed by the industry as an albatross around their neck and in this regard the Commission has institutionalised pre-notification consultations in order to assist the industry in complying with the procedural and substantive legal issues,” he added.
“The Commission has also ensured that the combination regulations are revised from time-to-time so as to reflect international best practices and the difficulties if any faced by the stakeholders,” further said Bunker.
The CCI Member further said that trade associations have been mainstream for the Commission to deal with especially in pharmaceutical sector lot of issues have come to the Commission, film and entertainment industry and like other associations also.
“Sometimes the associations while pursuing their legitimate business interest cross the line and indulge in anti-competitive activities thereby creating lot of market distortions,” he added.
“We have passed many orders in such cases thereby penalising the parties and association members as well,” he said.
“Commission treats cartel as the most pernicious violation of Competition Law and to ensure competitive neutrality and level playing field among market participants,” added Bunker.
He also said that the Commission does not discriminate amongst private businesses and government departments. “There is a complete impartiality either it is a government department or private industry, if Competition Law’s violation takes place then the Commission does not give any kind of difference as maintaining competitive neutrality is the main consideration.”
“The Commission always strives to dispose cases very fast and efficiently by following various judicial processes like principle of natural justice, giving proper opportunities, speaking orders and all such required things, however there are various challenges being faced by it in speedy disposal of cases – lack of awareness and public perception of the Law, large scale litigations, regulatory issues of overlapping, problems of capacity building and institutional issues, shortage of competent and professional staff,” further said Bunker.
Sharing some statistical information about enforcement of the Competition Law, Mr Bunker said, “We are nearing the sixth year of enforcement and so far the Commission has received around 600 informations including individual informations, references, suo moto cases initiated by the Commission and out of this around 75 per cent have been already decided, some of them are under investigation and few are under consideration.”
Talking about the main areas the Commission has strived and covered, he said that bid rigging especially in public procurement is where the large number of cases involving these issues have come to the Commission.
“We have covered the length and breadth of the country spreading wide spectrum of sectors including cement, coal, health, pharmaceutical, retail distribution chains, standard essential patents, real estate, stock exchanges, film and entertainment, automobile spare parts, electronic payments and others,” said Bunker.
He also said that the success achieved by the Commission has been very high considering that it had started with very limited infrastructure, capacity, trained manpower and with the law being new there was a lot of initial struggle.
Competition Law is very complex and requires comprehensive analysis which is why generally the economic analysis and processes of investigation takes lot of time, added Bunker.