CCI Adopting Multi-Pronged Approach To Ensure No Violation Of Competition Law
Stacks of papers. (Photographer: Dennis Brack/Bloomberg News)

CCI Adopting Multi-Pronged Approach To Ensure No Violation Of Competition Law

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Fair trade regulator CCI is adopting a multi-pronged approach, including nudging entities to desist from anti-competitive practices, to ensure there is no violation of the competition law and is extremely pro-active in responding to challenges due to Covid-19, according to a top official.

While acknowledging that Covid-19 has thrown new challenges for competition regulators, CCI Chairperson Ashok Kumar Gupta emphasised the competition law is "quite flexible and forward looking".

Competition Commission of India works to prevent unfair business ways in the market place and has powers, including to penalise as well as direct entities to cease and desist from such practices.

In a recent e-mail interview, Gupta said the regulator is adopting a multi-pronged approach to ensure that the law is not infringed.

"Apart from responding to formal filings, CCI, through scanning of media reports, keeps a watch on the anti-competitive conduct and behaviour of the market players. Once a prima facie case gets established, the same is taken up suo-motu to initiate inquiries.

"Needless to mention, CCI also supplements and complements such enforcement actions through advocacy initiatives by nudging the parties to desist from adopting and following anti-competitive practices and policies," he said.

Also read: Facebook’s Deal With Jio Under Indian Antitrust Review

In the wake of Covid-19, the watchdog has taken a series of administrative and regulatory steps. Among other measures, arrangements were made for parties concerned to electronically file anti-trust cases as well as combination notices. Also, matters for internal consideration were dealt with through video conferencing.

Gupta said a dedicated helpline was set up to attend to the queries of stakeholders during the pandemic and all urgent receipts from government/statutory bodies as also representations were processed electronically and relevant inputs were provided expeditiously.

"CCI has been extremely proactive in responding to the challenges arising out of outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic both on the administrative side as well as on the regulatory front," he said.

To deal with significant changes in supply and demand patterns arising out of the "extraordinary situation" due to the pandemic, Gupta said CCI issued an advisory for guidance of businesses.

According to him, the in-built safeguards of the Competition Act to protect businesses from sanctions for certain coordinated conduct were highlighted, provided such arrangements result in increasing efficiencies.

Also read: CCI: Covid-19 And Competition Law Concerns

"However, it was cautioned that only such conduct of businesses which is necessary and proportionate to address concerns arising from Covid-19 will be considered... Businesses were, however, warned not to take advantage of Covid-19 to contravene any of the provisions of the Act," he said.

When asked whether he thinks the pandemic has resulted in a paradigm shift that will require competition regulators worldwide to recalibrate the way markets and business practices are assessed, Gupta replied in the affirmative.

"No doubt, Covid-19 has thrown new challenges for competition regulators. Fortunately, our law is quite flexible and forward-looking and it equips the Commission to address the challenges arising out of Covid-19 like situations," he noted.

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