CCI prefers non-participation as competition agencies get ranked globally

CCI opts out of Rating Enforcement Survey; Remained “unranked” alongwith Competition Agencies of Canada, China, US DoJ & FTC

The Competition Commission of India (CCI), has been ranked 2.8 (out of 5) on Market Perception Rating in the results of 23rd edition of Rating Enforcement of Global Competition Review (GCR), a global publisher of news, analysis, and events related to the competition law and policy industry. This comes in the wake of CCI’s non-participation in the survey. However, the competition watchdog’s profile was issued based on GCR’s reporting and other publicly available information.

European Union’s Directorate-General for Competition and Germany’s Federal Cartel Office were top ranked as “elite” with 5 star ratings.

Australia’s Competition & Consumer Commission, France’s Competition Authority, South Korea’s Fair Trade Commission, and United Kingdom’s Competition and Markets Authority were ranked as “very good” with 4.5-star ratings.The other jurisdictions and Agencies which remained “Unranked” are: Canada’s Competition Bureau, China’s State Administration for Market Regulation, US Department of Justice and US Federal Trade Commission.

“The CCI issued three of its biggest enforcement decisions ever in the span of one week in October 2022. The watchdog ordered Google to pay a combined 22.8 billion Indian rupees (€247.million) in fines for abusing its dominance over the Android operating system and its payment processing services. It also sanctioned MakeMyTrip and hotel company Oravel Stays in one of its first orders targeting multi-sided platforms. The authority also advanced other behavioural probes into Apple and Google’s news publishing”, added a release issued by GCR.

However, its momentum was halted at the end of that month when Ashok Kumar Gupta stepped down as chair after four years – leaving the agency without the required number of commissioners to issue decisions. It wasn’t until May 2023 that the government appointed a replacement, choking the CCI’s conduct work in the meantime – although it did invoke the doctrine of necessity in early 2023 to clear a merger backlog, the release added.

Despite having little antitrust experience prior to his appointment in November 2018, Gupta left the agency in a stronger position, having progressed the country’s competition culture. The government tapped Ravneet Kaur – a former federal and state government official – in May 2023 for a five-year term. Her appointment came just one month after India’s President approved sweeping amendments to the country’s competition law, which will allow the CCI to impose fines based on global turnover. To complement the CCI’s enforcement efforts, the government has also set up a stand-alone expert committee to draft a Digital Competition Act.” it said.

Competition Bar

The survey also obtained feedback from local experts on the effectiveness of the competition law enforcers. “Local lawyers believe the CCI should be a more effective enforcer. Beside fairly stinging criticism of its work in conducting probes, they think it can do a better job using its resources and progressing its probes in a timely manner. They note that its two in-depth Google probes, which were launched after preliminary investigations, took 23 and 30 months to conclude”, added the release.

“It is seen as an active enforcer, vigilant to market developments be it through regular probes of non-notified mergers or significantly increasing the number of dawn raids it conducts in cartel investigations”.

Hemangini Dadwal, a partner at AZB & Partners told GCR that prior to Gupta’s departure, the CCI was in one of its most active enforcement stints, particularly in digital markets.

The agency made efforts to make its processes more efficient – including by simplifying its confidentiality regime – and abide by timelines, she said. Meanwhile, some of its decisions in digital markets ordered extensive behavioural remedies that went beyond those imposed by the CCI’s counterparts in other jurisdictions.

Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co partner Rohan Arora added that 2022 was a big year for the CCI, in part because Gupta wanted to leave a legacy and issue several major decisions before stepping down.

But the CCI also wanted to contribute to current global antitrust enforcement trends, he said, noting that the MakeMyTrip decision assessed price parity clauses, while the Google decisions follow enforcement action in several other jurisdictions.

As per the survey report, the CCI appeared to notch a win every month before the courts in 2022.

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