To tackle competition issues in new age markets a 'nuanced task': CCI chief

Regulatory interventions in new age markets to tackle competition issues is a "nuanced task" as it needs to be ensured that the decisions do not stifle innovation, Competition Commission of India (CCI) chief D K Sikri has said.

Acknowledging that a major challenge is regulatory interventions in the digitised world, "which is characterised by network effects", Sikri said at times traditional tools of enforcement might not be sufficient.

His remarks also come against the backdrop of the CCI penalising internet major Google for unfair business practices.
"Making intervention in these new age markets for countering abuse is a nuanced task wherein we have to weigh efficiency vis-a-vis market power... we need to balance our decisions to address competition concerns and at the same time not to stifle innovation," Sikri told PTI.

In his first interview to a media organisation since taking over as chairman in January 2016, he said that innovation cycles are progressing at a fast pace in the digital economy disrupting and reshuffling long-established positions.

"Hence, it is important that regulatory intervention in such markets is targeted and proportionate, lest it stifles innovations and denies consumers the benefit of such innovation," he said in an e-mail interview.

In recent times, there have been complaints of alleged anti-competitive practices in various new age areas, including those pertaining to cab aggregators.

When asked about the impact of ruling in Google case with respect to the fast evolving technology areas, Sikri said the regulator has largely followed the principle of "regulatory forbearance" while examining Google's search design and such an approach would foster innovation in the digital economy.

In February, the watchdog slapped a fine of Rs 1.36 billion on the Internet major for unfair business practices in the Indian market for online search. Google has appealed against the order.

Globally, this was one of the rare cases where Google has been penalised for unfair business ways, even as it has been under probe in several countries.

The CCI has the mandate to keep a tab on unfair business practices across sectors in the market place.

According to Sikri, enforcement experience so far suggests that sectors such as entertainment, pharma distribution, transport, public procurement and agriculture are vulnerable to cartelisation.

"Further, we have experienced issues of abusive conduct in real estate, stock exchange, automobiles, sports governance, telecommunication, gas marketing, liquor distribution and hi-tech markets," he said.

About the government's recent decision to reduce the number of members at CCI, Sikri did not offer any comments. Earlier this month, the government decided to reduce the total number of members at the regulator, including the chairperson, from seven at present to four.

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