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CCI to set up a dedicated Digital Markets & Data Unit for addressing complexities in the digital sector: Shri Ashok Kumar Gupta, IAS

CCI to set up a dedicated Digital Markets & Data Unit for addressing complexities in the digital sector: Shri Ashok Kumar Gupta, IAS

15th October 2022, NEW DELHI: "The birth of CCI was in response to a transition that India was witnessing where markets were central to economic growth, the premise being, that while markets can achieve several economic public policy goals, there can be market failures,” said Shri Ashok Kumar Gupta, IAS, Chairperson of Commission of India (CCI) at the 7th Annual International ConferenceHe stated that in the last 13 years, the competition regulator has reviewed over 1200 antitrust cases, 965 combination filings and held over more than 1200 advocacy events. “However, more than what the numbers reveal, the Commission through these years, has developed a sound body of jurisprudence across diverse sectors of the economy by engaging with various stakeholders,” he said, adding, "Some of the major sectors in which interventions have been made by the Commission are cement, tyre, real estate, pharma, entertainment, coal and digital markets.”

The 7th international conference, themed: Competition Law: Enforcement in India - The Past, The Present and The Future, was organised by CCI and the apex industry body, Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM).

Shri Gupta, who was the chief guest at the international conference, touched upon the various initiatives undertaken by CCI as well as the challenges in front of them, which includes the rising cases from technological markets. “The Commission is constantly honing its antitrust and merger toolkit to meet these challenges and, in doing so, benchmarking itself with best global practices,” he said, adding, “In view of the number of cases and complexity in the digital sector and the increasing need for data and technology skills, CCI is in the process of setting up a dedicated Digital Markets and Data Unit (DMDU) in CCI. In addition to our staff from the law, economics and finance streams, we plan to staff the unit with new professional profiles such as data scientists, algorithm experts etc.”

The Chairperson of CCI said that the Indian Competition Act encourages mutual meaningful relationship between competition and corporate governance. "The Hon'ble Union Finance Minister Smt Nirmala Sitharaman, in her Annual Day address, stressed on the importance of FAQs and urged the Commission to prepare them for the benefit of stakeholders. CCI recently put together FAQs covering aspects of its enforcement provision under the Act."

He also said that the evolution of the Competition Act of India has reached an interesting point. "I am glad that the Competition Amendment Bill has been introduced in the Parliament. Hopefully the legislative process will be completed soon," he added.

"To strengthen outreach and access, the Commission has taken steps by opening regional offices. The first regional office was opened in Chennal on 25th February 2021. The Commission commenced operation of its Eastern office in Kolkata on 20th May 2022," Shri Gupta elaborated. "Having a regional footprint is v critical to discharge its mandate as a market regulator as states are important partners in fostering competition," he added.

The Chairperson of CCI hailed ASSOCHAM for playing a “catalytic role in shaping the economic landscape of the country, which has made India's emergence onto the world stage a reality”. He added that the importance of the Chamber's “industry-regulator dialogue”, like the day-long conference in Competition Law, "cannot be overemphasised".


Guest of Honour Dr. Harsha Vardhana Singh, Former Member CLRC & Former Deputy Director General, WTO & Former Economic Advisor and Secretary, TRAI also shared his insights on the digital sector which is rapidly expanding in India, and the emergence of several issues prompted by this growth. “It is essential that the regulatory bodies should consider the online and offline distribution segments of the relevant market. Timely reforms and regulating process for settlements is where all the parties should consider in order to achieve a common pathway,” he said. 


He added that the physical qualities or end-use of items, prices of goods or services, consumer preferences, legislative trade barriers, and local specification requirements are only a few of the elements that the CCI specifies and must be taken into account when determining a "relevant market." Flexibility and timeliness are the key.


Shri Basudev Mukherjee, Assistant Secretary General (ASG), ASSOCHAM, in his welcome address, said competition law plays a pivotal role for safeguarding the interests of competition and consumers. He stated that the market in the post-pandemic world is evolving with new markets coming up with arising need for compatible laws.


Shri Manas Kumar Chaudhuri, Chairman, ASSOCHAM National Council on Competition Law & Partner, Khaitan and Co., emphasized on the continuous support by the regulatory bodies with their guidance and engagement to ensure a strong future and sustain fair competition in the Indian economy. “There should be transparency and timeliness in the process for the benefit of consumers and third parties,” he added.


According to Ms. Jyoti Jindgar Bhanot, Advisor and Secretary (I/c), Competition Commission of India, there is a stronger trust in enforcement to improve the legal proceedings and focusing on reforms for market correction and welfare (CCI). In the technical session, she spoke on the subject of mergers and acquisitions and the Competition Amendment Bill. With regard to the nature of the business and research, the strategy should be multifaceted, “especially in light of the fact that a significant portion of CCI's adjudicating work and the rules on M&As are tied to changes in the technology sector."


Shri Karan Singh Chandhiok, Co-Chairman, ASSOCHAM National Council on Competition Law & Practice Head - Competition Law and Dispute Resolution, Chandhiok & Mahajan, Advocates and Solicitors, who gave the vote of thanks, shared that the entire intention of Competition Law Enforcement is to bring change  in the competitive process in the business models. He noted that consumer welfare is the goal to achieve in the bottom line.  


The event also saw the launch of the Knowledge Report - Back to Business: Updates on the Indian Competition Regime in Post-Pandemic Times comprising of contemporary articles on competition law. The conference witnessed eminent speakers from around the globe such as Austria, US, UK  etc.

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