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Competition: Legal Milestones Financial Year 2020-21 And A Look Ahead

14 Apr 2021

The competition law regime in India is undergoing significant transformation and the Competition Commission of India is playing a pivotal role in shaping its implementation. This update covers the key highlights of the financial year 2020-2021 and provides a brief overview of the likely trends in the new financial year.

THE YEAR THAT WAS

The financial year 2020-2021 witnessed significant competition law-related developments, including the advisory for businesses in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the market study report on the telecom sector in India. The digital sector faced increased scrutiny, with several technology companies being investigated for alleged anti-competitive and abusive practices in India, as the rapidly evolving digital landscape posed unique challenges.

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has previously indicated that while assessing new-age markets, it will adopt a nuanced and minimalist approach, to avoid stifling innovation incentives which are offered by such digital companies. Google is facing an investigation for alleged abusive conduct by unfairly mandating the use of its payment’s app, Google Pay, inter alia to purchase apps in the Play Store.

The CCI has also directed an investigation against WhatsApp in respect of its updated privacy policy. The CCI has held that the alleged ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ nature and the data-sharing provisions of WhatsApp’s updated privacy policy is prima facie abusive and may have an exclusionary effect in other related market(s) (display advertising), thereby creating barriers to entry and undermining the competitive process.

With respect to mergers, the CCI has continued to adopt a hybrid approach in granting approvals in complex M&A deals, by accepting structural and behavioural remedies, requiring parties to either make a permanent change in the structure of the market (e.g., divestment of assets) or to commit to not act in a certain manner in future (e.g., firewall provisions).

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