Photo of Rahul Goel

Partner in the Competition Practice at the Delhi Office of Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas. Rahul focuses on competition law, trade law and technology as well as media & telecommunication. He routinely advises on issues relating to behavioural/ enforcement matters, merger control provisions as well as anti-dumping, international trade and WTO laws and the Information Technology Act and its rules. He can be reached at rahul.goel@cyrilshroff.com

 

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.*

Continue Reading Non-solicitation in the Context of Competition and Labour Laws

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.

Continue Reading Anti-dumping Measures Against Solar Cells: Far from Over

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.

Continue Reading Abuse of Dominance: Effect over Form?

In an interesting development, the Supreme Court of India (Supreme Court) has overturned the Competition Appellate Tribunal’s (COMPAT) order and confirmed the Competition Commission of India’s (CCI) order confirming abuse of dominance by multi-system operators (MSOs).

The Supreme Court not only interpreted the provisions of section 4 of the Competition Act, 2002 (Competition Act) and differed with COMPAT’s understanding; but also delivered a judgment in a sector that is regulated by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). The judgment, though not directly dealing with the issue, affirms the exclusive jurisdiction of the CCI to deal with anti-competitive conduct even in regulated sectors with special sectoral regulators. Most interestingly, in another case before the Supreme Court, the TRAI is contesting that it is the sole regulator in the telecom sector including competition law related issues and CCI has no jurisdiction.

Additionally, the judgment also advances the penalty jurisprudence in competition law cases by setting aside CCI’s imposition of penalties, due to certain mitigating factors despite upholding its conclusion of abuse of dominance.

Continue Reading Supreme Court Confirms Abuse of Dominance by Multi System Operators

In the Budget Speech for the financial year 2016-17, the Government of India proposed its vision to strengthen Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs) engaged in the Oil and Gas Sectors (OGS) through consolidation, mergers and acquisitions.

Paving a way for fast track consolidation in the oil and gas sector, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India (MCA) has exempted all cases of combinations involving CPSEs operating in OGS, along with their wholly or partly owned subsidiaries operating in OGS, from Section 5 and Section 6 of the Competition Act, 2002 (Competition Act).

Continue Reading MCA Exempts Central Public Sector Enterprises Engaged in Oil and Gas Sector from CCI Notification

The nature of regulations, enforcement authorities and their ability to enforce regulations has been known to have a profound effect on innovation.

As the internet transforms industrial processes, regulators across sectors and geographies are trying to achieve the right balance on regulating innovation – enough so that it is under effective control yet not stifled from growing.

In a recent policy brief on behalf of the Penn Wharton Public Policy Initiative, Kevin Werbach, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, advises policy makers and regulators that the next stage of digital advancement will lead to a phenomenon that he calls “Internet of the World” – an intersection of the on-demand/sharing economy, the Internet of Things and Big Data. He suggests that this stage would represent “the final destruction of artificial divisions between real and virtual”.

As we approach this stage at a rapid pace, law-making and regulation needs to evolve accordingly. Laws need to reflect the rapidly blurring boundaries between the physical and digital so that regulators are suitably equipped to accomplish their tasks across all mediums and sectors.

Continue Reading Emerging Trends in Market Power: An Update

The enforcement of any new law can throw many issues. These become especially prominent in the case of a law that is brought into force in phases – i.e. different provisions are made operational at different times.

The Competition Act, 2002 (Competition Act) is one such legislation. Though the statute was passed in 2003, its phase-wise notification extended up till 2011. More importantly, the sections/ provisions relating to anti-competitive agreements were notified[1] to come into force from 20 May 2009. The application of a provision/ section after an event is one such prickly issue.

The Supreme Court of India (SC) has examined the issue in the context of the Competition Act in the recent decision of Excel Crop Care Limited v Competition Commission of India & Anr[2].

Continue Reading An Antitrust Time Machine: Application of Competition Act to Pre-Enactment Conduct

Non-compete clauses form an important part of various corporate transactions. They provide purchasers some protection against competition from sellers so that they may benefit by obtaining the full value of the transferred assets (both tangible and intangible). Such non-compete clauses can be necessary for purchasers to gain the loyalty of customers and to fully utilise the know-how acquired. In the case of Joint Ventures (JV), such clauses can be necessary to ensure that the JV partners are committed to the JV and do not, independently, end up competing with it.

However, these clauses, as they are essentially agreements not to compete, can give rise to competition law concerns and lead to scrutiny by the Competition Commission of India (CCI).

Continue Reading Non-Compete Clauses: CCI Issues Guidance Note

As soon as the details were disclosed, the Finance Bill, 2017 raised eye-brows[1] . Some noted that:

  • To minimise the number of tribunals, the Finance Bill, 2017 sought to merge eight tribunals with other tribunals and amended provisions relating to the structuring and re-organization of such tribunals.
  • The above measures were sought to be taken through a money bill, which is only supposed to contain provisions for imposition of taxes and withdrawal of money from the State Treasury.

Continue Reading Spanner in the Works? Judicial Challenge to the Finance Act, 2017

Clear skies emerge as competition authorities across jurisdictions become more sure-footed in dealing with the ever growing (new) digital economy.

The Competition Commission of India’s (CCI) confidence in dealing with apps and technologies is reflected in its relevant market[1] determination in cases concerning instant messaging apps.

On 1 June, 2017, the CCI passed an order[2] under Section 26(2) of the Competition Act, 2002 (Competition Act), holding that the case did not warrant an inquiry into alleged abuse of dominant position by WhatsApp Inc (WhatsApp).

Continue Reading Where Do They Belong? Relevant Market Determination for Instant Communication Apps