India Gains Footing in Competition Policy News Feed

Location: India

October 15, 2013--Competition policy is a "relatively new concept in India," according to Nathan India’s Ram Tamara, Jincy Elizabeth Francis, and Muthu Raman. The Competition Commission of India (CCI) is entering its fifth year as India's fair trade regulator, the three note in The Handbook of Competition Economics 2014 , an annual publication from the journal and news service Global Competition Review. Tamara, Francis, and Raman present an overview of the commission's rulings on cartels, alleged abuse of dominance, and combinations for the Handbook's section on India. 

The CCI's rulings in realms as diverse as cement, cricket, hockey, natural gas, spirits, and tires have made local and international headlines. The authors provide insight with their review, having worked with law firms and other parties on many cases that have gone before the commission. Because competition policy has such a short history, CCI's evolution will entail ''advocacy initiatives to educate market players about competition law.''

 The CCI's cartel rulings ''thus far seem to lack consistency,'' according to an extract from the Handbook (www.GlobalCompetitionReview.com). The CCI concluded, for example, that cement companies engaged in a cartel yet tire companies did not, even though the two cases ''were based on similar economic and circumstantial evidence.'' Tire companies prevailed in part because the CCI examined the threat to the industry from imports.

 In a celebrated case involving India's most popular sport, the CCI held that the Board for Control of Cricket in India abused its dominance when it denied market access to new cricket leagues. Yet, the authors say, the CCI was silent on the broader issue under investigation: whether the cricket board ''abused its dominant position in relation to the granting of various rights and contracts.''  These would include media rights for the Indian Premier League, a professional league that the board started and runs. The CCI found no abuse in a case involving Hockey India, the national federation for that sport.

 The commission approved the acquisition of Gujarat Gas Company Ltd. by GSPC Distribution Networks Ltd. in January 2013, saying the monopoly would not stifle competition because the two entities operate in different regions and the distributors are regulated by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board. In another important combination, the commission permitted Diageo plc of London to acquire a stake in India's United Spirits Ltd. A significant portion of the ruling was that the same general product ''with differences in price bands'' constituted separate markets. Also, the deal resulted in more consumer choice.

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