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CCI wields carrot and stick policy; imposes fines worth Rs 2,000 cr

PTI     December 26, 2013
Seeking to ensure fair play, Competition Commission of India this year imposed penalties, slammed cartels and nudged entities to be competitive in their trade practices, including in cases involving Jet Airways, state-run Coal India and cricketing body BCCI.

The Competition Commission of India (CCI), also the youngest regulator in the country, slapped penalties worth nearly Rs 2,000 crore on erring entities during 2013, with maximum of Rs 1,773 crore on state-run miner Coal India.

Many merger and acquisitions, including the high-profile Jet-Etihad deal worth Rs 2,056 crore, were also caught in the CCI cross-hairs for perceived anti-competitive nature and were cleared only after all such concerns were addressed.

Making incessant efforts to weed out unfair market practices, the Commission has also begun sensitising trade associations and public enterprises on healthy competition.

At the same time, the regulator is on course to get more teeth with direct search and seizure powers, besides the government working on the National Competition Policy.

Reflecting the menace of unfair business ways, at least 12 investigations have been ordered by the Commission this year touching upon areas as diverse as broadcasting and telecom.

National broadcaster Prasar Bharati's allegations against television audience tracker TAM, handset marker Micromax's complaint against Swedish major Ericsson, and alleged violations of fair trade norms by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) are among the notable cases under CCI scanner.

Besides, the Commission has ordered probe against Coal India in at least three other cases after finding prima-facie evidence of violations, which is separate from the case where a penalty of Rs 1,773 crore has already been imposed although the company is planning to challenge the same.

Though the watchdog provided extended window to comply with competition norms in cases of business combinations, a rare penalty of Rs 1 crore was recently imposed on Abu Dhabi-based carrier Etihad for withholding certain information while seeking approval for its deal with Jet.

At least 42 business combinations, including the deal between UK spirits major Diageo and Vijay Mallya-led United Spirits, were given green signal this year by the Commission.

All said and done, recovery of penalties imposed by CCI on entities found to be on the wrong side of its framework remains a grey area, as most of its orders get challenged.

Till November 25, the watchdog has managed to get only Rs 19.37 crore out of total fines worth more than Rs 8,000 crore slapped on over 154 entities, according to the government.

This is mainly on account of most rulings getting challenged at the Competition Appellate Tribunal (Compat).

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