India: CCI warns e-commerce platforms of investigation into ‘unfair’ practices

Photo: Reuters

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) on Saturday warned dominant e-commerce platforms of investigation into charges of opaque behaviour and unfair practices such as exclusive tie ups with certain sellers on items like mobile phones if they do not refrain from these methods.

CCI chairman Ashok Kumar Gupta said certain opaque practices of e-commerce platforms, for example, how products and services are ranked by these platforms in response to customer searches were highlighted in a report brought out by the regulator earlier in the week.

A major area of concern is exclusive sales tie ups, for example, sale of new models of certain mobile phones which are available only online. Gupta said if the concerns related to the adverse impact of these practices on market competition are not addressed by e-commerce players voluntarily, it will warrant an investigation.

“The Commission’s observations are not mere observations which can be ignored without consequence. But we have to give time to the industry to put their house in order. For each and every concern, we have given our observation (in the report). Those can get converted to a case. Enforcement can be done on a case to case basis. We are nudging them (e-commerce platforms). If tomorrow, this issue is agitated by some player before the Commission, then it becomes an altogether issue in terms of enforcement,” said Gupta.

He was speaking at a conference on competition law organised by the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

A trade body of conventional retailers has already filed a petition before the regulator relating to the impact online sale of mobile phones have on the market for such products. Gupta said online sale accounts for about 40-45% of mobile phones sold.

Mint had reported on 8 January that CCI has asked e-commerce platforms to be more open about how they rank products and services in response to customer searches and to ensure user reviews are genuine. The competition regulator also asked them to have transparent policies on what they do with the data collected on transactions.

Gupta said CCI can also initiate cases on its own against instances of unfair practice or abuse of dominance. “We can take up cases suo moto. Our intervention (in the market) should be minimal. No intervention if you can self- regulate,” said Gupta.

CCI nudged e-commerce platforms to address the concerns highlighted in its report on India’s e-commerce market.

This article was first published on livemint.com.  

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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.