Recently, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) published advocacy material in the form of a competition assessment toolkit intended for policymakers, researchers, analysts, and competition stakeholders; and a diagnostic toolkit for procurement officers. This furthers the CCI’s mandate of taking suitable measures for the promotion of competition advocacy, creating awareness and imparting training about competition issues.
The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has, for the sixth time since the introduction of the merger control regime in India, proposed amendments (Proposed Amendments) to the Competition Commission of India (Procedure in regard to the transaction of business relating to combinations) Regulations, 2011 (Combination Regulations).
The Combination Regulations are the principal regulations governing the merger notification process in India. Some of the changes proposed by the CCI seem to be aimed at addressing issues that have arisen in the implementation of the merger control regime over the past couple of years whereas others seek to incorporate procedures that are already being followed by the CCI in practice. The changes, currently in draft form while the CCI seeks stakeholder views , are highlighted in brief below. Continue Reading CCI Proposes Amendments to Combination Regulations
The Competition Commission of India (CCI), in its order dated 11 July 2018, has awarded a 100 per cent reduction in penalty to leniency applicants Globecast India Private Limited (GI) and Globecast Asia Private Limited (GA) (collectively referred to as Globecast), along with their respective responsible office-bearers. It has also awarded a 30 per cent reduction to Essel Shyam Communication Limited (now Planetcast Media Services Limited) (ESCL) along with their responsible officer bearers, in a cartel case in the broadcasting services industry.
This is the latest and the fourth such order of the CCI granting reduction of penalty to applicant(s) under Section 46 of the Competition Act, 2002 (Act) and the Competition Commission of India (Lesser Penalty) Regulations, 2009 (Leniency Regulations).
In a notification dated July 4, 2018, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) has granted an additional three year extension to the Vessel Sharing Agreements Exemption (VSA Exemption) in the liner shipping industry. This exempts VSAs from scrutiny under Section 3 (i.e., anti-competitive agreements) of the Competition Act, 2002 (as amended) (Act). This extension, which is a furtherance of international best practice, has come as a source of relief to the liner shipping industry, given that the last extension of the VSA exemption expired on June 19, 2018. The expiry of the previous exemption had led to speculation regarding the status and future of the VSA exemption.
Can an enterprise agree with its competitors not to hire each other’s employees without violating antitrust laws? Like any other practice of an enterprise, hiring practices may also violate antitrust laws. From an antitrust perspective, enterprises competing against each other to hire or retain employees are competitors in the employment marketplace irrespective of whether they sell the same product or provide the same services. Therefore, any agreement between employers, expressly or implicitly, agreeing not to hire each other’s employees, even if done to reduce costs, may violate antitrust laws.
With increasing protectionist barriers around the globe, companies are rushing to find new opportunities to expand and grow. As a result, competition among companies is unavoidable. This competition is not limited to goods or services offered by these companies and may extend to the hiring of employees, especially in industries where skilled talent is required. Companies have a collective interest to eliminate this competition by forming a no-poaching agreement amongst themselves, which restricts hiring each other’s employees. However, no-poaching agreements may be in violation of antitrust laws as they impose restrictions on employees to pursue other jobs, as well as limiting their remuneration.
The Hong Kong Competition Commission (HKCC) has highlighted this issue by publishing an Advisory Bulletin: ‘Competition concerns regarding certain practices in employment marketplace in relating to hiring and terms and conditions of employment’. Before reporting some of the key findings and recommendations of the HKCC, we map the competition law developments in this area from around the globe.*
* This piece was first published in the February 2018 issue of the Practical Lawyer (2018) PL (Comp. L) Feb 75
The boom in the technology and internet arenas has globally accelerated the growth of the digital economy. This has significantly aided the mechanism of collecting, processing and commercially exploiting the data in the hands of large corporations and even start-ups. Commonly referred to as ‘big data’, the concept refers to large volumes of a variety of data which is collected at high velocity and is then processed by computing softwares to produce unique datasets which has significant commercial value. While the collection and use of personal data falls under the domain of data protection laws, a question that is now being examined by several competition law regulators is whether the use of big data can impact competition in the markets.
Before we delve into this question, it is pertinent to consider the advantages and efficiencies which result from the commercial exploitation of big data. Consider the modus operandi of any frequently used search engine. It would use self-learning computing algorithms which would observe, record and analyze search terms keyed in by the users, the websites ‘clicked on’ and combine it with data collected from its other applications and services such as e-mail or data processing services to create detailed user profiles. It would then use, and maybe even sell, these unique and individualized information assets to various online advertisers and retailers for targeted advertising. Consider also the personalized recommendations of products and services that a user receives on various e-commerce platforms or on social networking websites based on the purchasing history, the keywords typed, and the general and personal information provided to these websites. Therefore, by closely tracking and analyzing the users’ needs and studying the consumer demand pattern, big data immensely assists in improving the quality of goods and services and their targeted advertising. It also improves the decision-making on the supply side by improving market predictions and the operational efficiency of manufacturers.
* This piece was first published in the January 2018 issue of the Practical Lawyer (2018) PL (Comp. L) Jan 75
With the USD 130 billion merger between global agrochemical giants – Dow Chemicals and E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (DuPont) being granted a green chit by the European Commission (EC) and the Competition Commission of India (CCI), the significance of innovation in merger assessment has witnessed a renewed focus. The extent and role of innovation in the concerned market is one of the factors that antitrust regulators are required to consider while evaluating a proposed transaction. Ordinarily, this exercise is undertaken to study the impact of the transaction on future innovation and any competitive harm which may result from reduction in the incentives to innovate as also the pro-competitive outcomes emanating from operational synergies which enhance innovation.
In the Dow/DuPont merger, the relevance of innovation was discussed at length by the EC which observed that the merger would not only significantly impede competition in the pesticides and petrochemical industries, at a global level, but would also reduce future innovation in the global pesticides industry. It was noted that the development of effective and environment friendly pesticides required large scale investments and continuous research and development (R&D) and globally, only five players were engaged in R&D in the field of pesticides. The Dow/DuPont merger therefore, would further consolidate market power in an already highly concentrated industry with significant entry barriers and would substantially reduce the parties’ incentives to innovate in the pesticides sector.
* This piece was first published in the December 2017 issue of the Practical Lawyer (2017) PL (Comp. L) Dec 76
This century is continually being marked by the convergence of this goliath world into a global village. While this phenomenon is attributable to a number of factors, inter-operability of technology and adoption of common standards have acted as important catalysts in this process. As such, this convergence perforce requires that common standards are available on fair terms to all. However, a number of components of these essential standards are patented, i.e., are standard essential patents (SEPs), thereby implying the exclusive right of the patentee to use and exploit the SEP. It is at this juncture that a complex yet interesting legal wrestle between the competition law and intellectual property rights (IPR) regimes emerges.
In essence, SEPs encompass those patented technologies which have become essential to a standard. From an antitrust perspective, an SEP holder enjoys substantial, almost monopolizing market power due to lack of substitute alternative technologies. The SEP holder is susceptible to engaging in abusive practices, such as refusal to license the SEP to other manufacturers, or charging exorbitant royalties. In order to balance this one-sided bargaining power, standard setting organizations (SSOs) across all jurisdictions obligate SEP holders to license the their intellectual property on fair reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms. However, the multi-jurisdictional decisional practice elucidates that mere affirmation by SEP holders to SSOs does not preclude them from engaging in abusive practices, thereby necessitating an interaction between competition laws and IPR.
If news reports are to be believed, the coming years may well lead to an all-out “trade war” between the East and West. Though the battle lines are drawn, the motivations, interests and intent of the potential “warriors” will seal the fate.
While the scope of the “warfare” is hard to predict, solar cells are likely to be at the heart of it.
Solar cells are facing numerous trade remedy measures across various jurisdictions. And India is no exception.
In India, the Directorate General of Anti-dumping & Allied Duties (DGAD) initiated the first investigation into alleged dumping of solar cells in India back in 2012. The said investigation was initiated based on a complaint filed by Solar Manufacturers Association, which alleged that manufacturers from China, Taiwan, Malaysia and the USA were dumping solar cells in India.
Upon investigation, the DGAD found that solar cells were subject to dumping in India from the subject countries. It also found that such dumping was causing injury to the domestic industry in India especially in view of India’s energy requirements and the disparity between the global manufacturing capacity for solar cells and that of Indian manufacturers. Consequently, in 2014, the DGAD recommended to the Government of India that anti-dumping duties be imposed on the import of solar cells from the subject countries.
Given the multifaceted economic and legal considerations, fair and effective enforcement of competition law is a complex task. It is rendered all the more daunting with the added requirement for the optimal level of competition law enforcement.
Optimal enforcement is arguably more important in competition law proceedings than in other areas of law enforcement because inadvertent under- and over-enforcement may actually end up harming competition itself. For example, if a competition authority attempts to over-enforce, it can actually make conduct illegal that was otherwise legal and, thus, prevent an enterprise from competing on merits. The result would be counter-productive to the objectives of competition law (by harming level of competition in the markets).
Given this debate, the story of competition law has been the story of competition between tests and concepts that are either presumption or form based (thus, simpler and providing legal certainty) and tests that are effects based – i.e. using economic/ quantitative techniques and are, thus, more accurate (and more conducive to the idea of optimal enforcement).
Recently, although the debate in this regard has surrounded the applicability of the effects-based test to prohibite abuse of dominance, companies need to be able to formulate policies that re-assure them of their legal certainty – stakeholders, therefore, await fast-track consensus.