On August 5, 2022, the Competition (Amendment) Bill, 2022 (the “Bill”), to amend the Competition Act, 2002 (the “Competition Act”), was introduced in the Indian Parliament. The timing of approval of the Bill, and its coming into effect, is uncertain at present. The Bill introduces certain new concepts into the field of Indian competition law, including Deal Value Thresholds, the changes to the definition of ‘control’, and mechanisms to settle certain violations of the Competition Act. It also provides for practical and much-needed updates to the Indian competition law regime, including relaxations for implementation of stock exchange purchases, proposed publication of guidelines for fines, and reduction of timeframes for the Competition Commission of India’s approval. This note provides detailed description of the changes proposed by the Bill.
Digital Markets Must be Defined Well for Competition Regulation
The rise of the digital sector has presented unique challenges for Indian regulatory authorities, including the Competition Commission of India (“CCI”), thanks to significant differences in the way such markets operate compared to traditional markets. There is growing demand, worldwide and in India, to hold digital platforms responsible and accountable for adverse impacts caused by them. A preliminary step involved in such probes is that of defining a ‘relevant market’ within which such digital platforms operate. This note analyzes the CCI’s approach on defining a ‘relevant market’ in the digital sector so far, and the need of the hour in terms of considering all substitutable and interchangeable products or services while defining such markets.
The PVR-INOX Merger: Bouncing Back from the Pandemic
On March 27, 2022, PVR Limited announced that it proposes to merge with INOX Leisure Limited. The combined entity will be rebranded as ‘PVR INOX’ and will have a network of 1,546 theatres. Ordinarily, a deal of such magnitude would have required prior approval from the Competition Commission of India, however the decreased revenue of the parties owing to the pandemic appears to have provided a unique benefit to this deal. This note analyzes the market positions of PVR and INOX, the role of the CCI, and the target based exemption that is applicable to this deal.
CCI Suspends Approval for Amazon-Future Deal
By way of an order dated December 17, 2021, the Competition Commission of India (“CCI”) has fined Amazon.com NV Investment Holdings LLC (“Amazon”) an amount of INR 200 crore for suppression of facts in its application to the CCI for approval of its proposed acquisition of 49% of the shares of Future Coupons Private Limited (the “Amazon Acquisition”). The CCI has also directed Amazon to file a fresh application for approval of the Amazon Acquisition and stated that until disposal of the fresh application to be filed by Amazon, the earlier approval order of the CCI shall “remain in abeyance”.
This note analyses this decision of the CCI, including the basis for the CCI’s suspension of its approval and Amazon’s internal material considered by the CCI.
Data Protection and Competition Law: Developments and the Way Forward
In the last decade the digital sector has witnessed tremendous growth – while this has given rise to new business models, opened up new markets, and unlocked significant efficiencies, it has also raised concerns that tech giants may use the excessive amounts of user data they hold, to influence digital markets to their advantage. However, there are also apprehensions regarding the use of competition law (instead of privacy and consumer legislations) to address such concerns. This note provides a brief overview of the existing legal framework on data privacy in India, analyses the CCI’s decisional practice in this regard, and suggests an appropriate way forward for the CCI on this matter.
Karnataka High Court’s Dismissal of Amazon and Flipkart’s Petitions – An Opportunity Missed?
The Karnataka High Court has, on 11 June 2021, dismissed the writ petitions filed by Amazon and Flipkart challenging the Competition Commission of India’s order issued under Section 26(1) of the Competition Act, 2002, directing the Director General to investigate certain alleged anti-competitive practices. While the Karnataka High Court’s judgment appears to follow well-established legal principles laid down by the Supreme Court of India, a closer examination reveals that some of the key arguments raised by Amazon and Flipkart have only been given a cursory consideration by the Karnataka High Court. Amazon and Flipkart have preferred an appeal against this judgment before a division bench of the Karnataka High Court. This note analyzes the judgment passed by the single judge bench of the Karnataka High Court.
Treatment of ‘Inter-Connected’ Transactions under Indian Competition Law
Under the Competition Act, 2002, transactions that qualify as a ‘combination’, are required to be notified to, and approved by, the Competition Commission of India (the “CCI”) prior to completion, unless any exemptions apply. If addition, all transactions that are ‘inter-connected’ with such ‘combination’, are also required to be notified to the CCI in a single application along with the combination. This applies irrespective of the inter-connected transaction being exempt from notification requirement on a standalone basis, and the inter-connected transaction may not be completed prior to receipt of the CCI’s approval. However, the identification and treatment of such ‘inter-connected’ transactions is fraught with uncertainty. This note aims to provide an overview of the existing Indian merger control framework and identify certain issues often faced by stakeholders in this regard.
Will the CCI’s Market Study on Private Equity Investments Provide Clarity for Minority Investments?
In light of the growing trend of private equity (“PE”) firms acquiring minority stakes in multiple firms in the same sector, the Competition Commission of India (the “CCI”) has recently announced a market study to analyse the incentives and rights associated with such minority investments, and their impact on competition in India. There is a lack of clarity around situations in which a PE investor is required to notify a proposed minority acquisition to the CCI, and it is hoped that the CCI’s proposed market study will inform improvements to this framework, in order to bolster certainty and investor confidence. In this context, this note provides an overview of the existing Indian merger control framework vis-à-vis ‘minority acquisitions’, including the uncertainty currently surrounding the notifiability of such transactions, and suggests a possible way forward.
One year of the CCI’s ‘Green Channel’ route for deemed approval of combinations
The Competition Commission of India (the “CCI”) recently commemorated the completion of the first year of the ‘Green Channel’ approval route for combination filings in India, by way of which, combinations which meet certain criteria are deemed to be approved upon filing a valid short form notification (Form-I) with the CCI. This unique approval route was introduced by the CCI with effect from 15 August 2019, for facilitating speedy clearance of transactions, and balancing the ease of doing business in India with appropriate regulatory oversight for such combinations. Since its introduction, almost one-fifth of the combinations notified to the CCI have availed of this route.
This note analyses certain issues relating to the implementation of this route, some of which have subsequently been addressed by the guidance issued by the CCI through its updated ‘Notes to Form-I’. While some issues remain to be clarified, it is hoped that going forward, these will be resolved through CCI’s further guidance and decisional practice, and facilitate a wider and more certain use of the deemed approval route.