This piece was first published in the August 2017 issue of The Practical Lawyer [(2017) PL (Comp. L) August 80]


Price fixing arrangements strike at the very heart of antitrust violations since they go against the accepted norm of price being determined by market forces. Such arrangements raise concerns in both horizontal and vertical markets. Under the scheme of the Competition Act, 2002 (Act), while horizontal pricing agreements (between competitors) are presumed to cause an appreciable adverse effect on competition (AAEC), there is no such presumption in the case of vertical agreements (between entities operating at different levels of the value chain), where the “rule of reason” approach is applied.

Interestingly, the treatment of vertical agreements and in particular resale price maintenance (RPM)[i], has been long debated in many jurisdictions. Initially, antitrust authorities in mature jurisdictions were in agreement that RPM, in principle, was a per se violation and as such, not subject to any justification. However, acknowledging the need for relaxation, the US Supreme Court and the European Commission refrained from adopting a strict per se presumptive approach in cases of RPM to apply the “rule of reason” standard. On the other hand, national competition authorities in the European Union continue to take a hostile approach towards RPM without considering any pro-competitive effects that may arise. Moreover, in the Indian context, while the CCI had reiterated the statutory construct in dealing with RPM, by stating that AAEC needs to be determined on basis of the factors provided under Section 19(3) of the Act, until recently the treatment of RPM (including its scope and standard of proof) lacked clarity.

Continue Reading Resale Price Maintenance : Has CCI Upped the Ante?

On 31 October 2017, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) passed cease and desist orders against certain national and regional trade associations of film artists and producers for engaging in practices of controlling/limiting the supply of services and market sharing. Such acts have been held to be in contravention of Sections 3(3)(b) and 3(3)(c) read with Section 3(1) of the Competition Act, 2002 (Competition Act).

Background

Mr. Vipul Shah (Informant), a producer of films, filed an information against Artists’ Associations, comprising the All India Film Employees Confederation, Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE) and its affiliated associations[1], as well as Producers’ Associations, comprising the Indian Motion Picture Producers Association, the Film and Television Producers Guild of India, and the Indian Film and Television Producers Council (Artists’ Associations and Producers’ Associations are collectively referred to as the Opposite Parties). The information alleged a contravention of provisions of the Competition Act on the grounds that:

Continue Reading CCI Reprimands Film Industry Trade Unions for Engaging in Anti-Competitive Behaviour

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has imposed a cumulative penalty of INR 120 million (approx. USD 1.87 million) on ten coal and sand transporters (Opposite Parties or OPs) for bid-rigging. The OPs were found to have rigged the bids submitted in relation to four tenders for coal and sand transportation floated by Western Coalfields Limited (Informant), a subsidiary of the state-owned monopolist, Coal India Limited.[1]

The information filed with the CCI alleged contravention of the provisions of the Competition Act, 2002 (Competition Act) on the ground that the OPs had quoted identical prices, which were suspiciously higher than the rates quoted for the same jobs in the recent past.

Continue Reading Coal Transporters Penalised for Bid-Rigging

The Competition Commission of India (Lesser Penalty) Regulations, 2009 (Leniency Regulations) have been amended by a notification issued on 22 August 2017 (Notification). The Leniency Regulations supplement Section 46 of the Competition Act, 2002, which sets out the statutory provision for grant of leniency in matters involving cartels and enables parties to ‘blow the whistle’ on cartel arrangements and avail up to 100% reduction in penalties.

The amendments have been introduced after nearly seven years since the introduction of the leniency regime in India, addressing substantive issues faced by the industry. The formal amendments are largely in line with the draft amendments issued in March 2017 wherein the Competition Commission of India (CCI) invited comments from various stakeholders.

This update briefly captures the key amendments and the potential implications on the effectiveness of the leniency programme in India.

Continue Reading Leniency Regulations Amended

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

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

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

On 14 June 2017, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) imposed a penalty of INR 87 crore (approx. USD 13.54 million) on Hyundai Motor India Limited (HMIL), which is engaged in the sale and distribution of Hyundai cars and its parts in India. This was for engaging in the practices of resale price maintenance (RPM) and tying in, in contravention of the provisions of Sections 3(4)(e) and 3(4)(a) read with Section 3(1) of the Competition Act, 2002 (Act).

Continue Reading CCI’S First Substantive Order on Resale Price Maintenance

On 8 May, 2017, in a landmark judgment, the Hon’ble Supreme Court (bench consisting of Hon’ble Mr. Justice A.K. Sikri and Hon’ble Mr. Justice N.V. Ramana) upheld the principle of “relevant turnover” for determination of penalties in competition law contraventions; and settled a critical issue in India’s antitrust jurisprudence, which was heavily debated amongst all stakeholders for over five years.

Background

The above ruling arises out of a proceeding involving an alleged contravention of Section 3(3) of the Competition Act, 2002 (Competition Act) in the public procurement of Aluminium Phosphide (ALP) Tablets by the Food Corporation of India (FCI). The Competition Commission of India (CCI) found a violation of Section 3(3) of the Competition Act and imposed a penalty at the rate of 9% of the total turnover of the concerned ALP manufacturers – namely, Excel Corp Care Limited (Excel), United Phosphorus Limited (UPL) and Sandhya Organic Chemicals Private Limited (Sandhya).

Continue Reading Supreme Court Limits CCI’s Penalty Powers: “Relevant Turnover” Upheld

In a judgment that has far reaching consequences, the Delhi High Court (Delhi HC) has adjudicated upon the constitutional validity of various regulations formulated under the Competition Act, 2002 (Act) addressing confidentiality of sensitive information that is submitted to the Competition Commission of India (CCI).[i]

The petitioners in the Writ Petitions are opposite parties in a suo moto investigation by the CCI for alleged participation in a bid-rigging cartel in the conveyor belt sector in India. The CCI found prima facie evidence of violation of the provisions of the Act and directed its investigative arm, i.e., the office of the Director General (DG), to commence an investigation against the petitioners, amongst others.

In the course of the investigation, the petitioners filed an application before the CCI for inspecting the information relied upon by the CCI to arrive at its prima facie view and procure copies under Regulation 37 of the Competition Commission of India (General) Regulations, 2009 (General Regulations). The above application by the petitioners was denied by the CCI on the grounds that the information/documents requested by the petitioners formed part of the confidential records of the CCI and accordingly could not be disclosed to the petitioners at this stage of the investigation.

Continue Reading Delhi High Court Upholds Constitutionality of Confidentiality Regulations