CCI defends its probe order on Amazon and Flipkart

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) on Thursday contended before the High Court of Karnataka that it was not looking into any violations related to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy by e-commerce majors Amazon and Flipkart, but intended to examine only whether they had entered into anti-competitive agreements in violation of Section 3 of the Competition Act, 2002.

Submission in this regard was made before Justice P.S. Dinesh Kumar, who is hearing a petition by Amazon Seller Services Pvt. Ltd., which had questioned the January 13 order of the CCI directing its Director-General to conduct an investigation into a complaint given by Delhi Vyapar Mahasangh (DVM) that the two e-commerce majors through their online marketplace had indulged in anti-competitive agreement giving preference to select sellers and offering deep discounts.

Advocate B.N. Harish, appearing for CCI, has contended that there was no referee in the CCI’s order on FDI violation and Amazon has raised this issue only to overcome the jurisdictional issue for approaching the High Court. He also contended that CCI’s order asking its D-G to conduct investigation is neither a judicial nor a quasi judicial one but is merely an “administrative order” to its another wing on administrative side.

Pointing out that the Competition Act has no provision to issue notice to the parties before passing such “administrative orders” asking the D-G to conduct an investigation and submit a report, Mr. Harish contended that petitioner has no reason to approach the court of law as none of its civil rights were affected as the D-G will issue notice to Amazon and take information from it before giving report to the CCI.

On Amazon’s claim that the CCI had ignored its own recent study on e-commerce market in India, which had dealt with the operation of online marketplaces, including Amazon, CCI’s counsel said that the study report was for understanding the online market and it was not a relevant document to be noted before deciding whether there is a need to seek investigation report from the D-G.

Appearing for DVM, senior counsel K.G. Raghavan that the complainant had provided “enough and more” materials to the CCI for ordering investigation through its D-G in terms of the parameters laid down by the apex court. He also contended that the best place for deciding the controversies over the online marketplace is before the CCI while making it clear that the petitions filed before the Delhi High Court and the Rajasthan High Court by the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) is not linked to violation of Competition Act but for violation of Foreign Exchange laws. Mr. Raghavan too has contended that no rights of Amazon or Flipkart were affected by order of investigation at present as the CCI may either continue further proceedings or close the complaint as provided in the Competition Act based on the investigation report.

Further hearing has been adjourned till February 14.

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Printable version | Feb 29, 2020 12:11:53 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/cci-defends-its-probe-order-on-amazon-and-flipkart/article30813343.ece

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