Why we need a new competition law

GS Paper II

News Excerpt:

India may enact a dedicated law to curb the anti-competitive conduct of large digital enterprises, or big tech, in the months following the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. 

Background of the issue:

  • A recommendation for anti competition law was made by a parliamentary standing committee in December 2022, 
    • The ministry of corporate affairs appointed an expert panel to examine the advice and draft a digital competition bill.
  • A major concern of the parliamentary committee and the expert panel was the rising dominance of a few big tech companies in the digital market which gave them an edge over smaller businesses and start-ups. 
    • Committee felt that anti-competitive conduct of large digital enterprises needs to be regulated on an ex-ante basis, rather than on the ex-post basis that the Competition Act, 2002 envisages. 
  • The idea is to prevent anti-competitive conduct from occurring, given the winner-takes-most outcomes in digital markets. 

Why do we need ex-ante competition regulation for digital companies?

  • Given the pace at which digital enterprises move, it was felt that affected parties would suffer irreparable damage by the time ex-post measures were ordered to remedy uncompetitive practices. 
    • The Competition Act’s ex-post measures involve several stages such as: -  
      • Forming a prima facie view by the Competition Commission of India (CCI), 
      • An investigation by the director general, and 
      • Passing of the final order, all of which are time-consuming. 
  • Therefore, it is felt that the ex-ante framework will be more efficient at preventing anti-competitive conduct by large digital enterprises which have a significant presence in India and the ability to influence the Indian digital market.

What were the major concerns of the parliamentary committee?

  • In a traditional physical market, there is a competitive disadvantage to become bigger due to diminishing returns to size. 
  • However, in the digital market, players experience increasing returns to size as marginal costs diminish rapidly, making scaling up quickly a good business strategy. 
  • These entities gain from network effects, newer users would opt to use/join a platform that already has a large number of users, as is seen in the instances of social networking and messaging apps.
  • The parliamentary committee had identified 10 anti-competitive practices of digital enterprises and these include: - 
    • Anti-steering provisions, platform neutrality/self-preferencing, 
    • Pricing/deep discounting, exclusive tie-ups, 
    • Search and ranking preferences and 
    • Mergers & acquisitions (M&As). 
  • The draft bill addressed all these above concerns other than the one about M&As, which the expert committee felt could continue to be dealt with by the Competition Act.

Competition Commission Of India

  • The Competition Commission of India (CCI) was established under the Competition Act, 2002 for the administration, implementation and enforcement of the Act, and was duly constituted in March 2009. 
  • The following are the objectives of the Commission.
    1. To prevent practices having adverse effect on competition.
    2. To promote and sustain competition in markets.
    3. To protect the interests of consumers.
    4. To ensure freedom of trade
  • Consequent upon a challenge to certain provisions of the Act and the observations of the Hon'ble Supreme Court, the Act was amended by the Competition (Amendment) Act, 2007. 
  • The Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1969 [MRTP Act] repealed and was replaced by the Competition Act, 2002, with effect from 1st September, 2009.

Will the proposed law apply to all large digital companies?

  • The proposed law will apply to only a select band of big tech companies, these would be providing ‘core digital services’, and have a significant presence and the ability to influence the Indian digital market. 
    • Such entities would be designated as ‘systemically significant digital enterprises’ (SSDEs).
  • An enterprise will fall into this category only if: - 
    • It has a turnover of at least ₹4,000 crore in India, 
    • Global turnover of at least $30 billion, 
    • Gross merchandise value of ₹16,000 crore in India or global market capitalisation of $75 billion in the immediately preceding three financial years. 
    • Its core digital services should have either one crore end users or 10,000 business users. 
  • These thresholds are in line with those prescribed in ex-ante competition regulation for digital enterprises in the European Union’s Digital Markets Act and the UK’s draft Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill. 
    • These thresholds are to be revised every three years once the bill becomes law.
  • The draft states that a provider of core digital services can be designated as an SSDE by the CCI under certain circumstances even if it does not meet the prescribed threshold if the competition regulator is of the opinion that the entity has a significant presence in the identified service.

What is meant by core digital service?

  • Core digital services include online search engines, online social networking services, video-sharing platform services, interpersonal communications services, operating systems, web browsers, cloud services, advertising services and online intermediation services. 
  • Google, Meta, Apple and Amazon are among the global corporations that will be subjected to the proposed law.

What are the obligations of digital companies under the proposed law?

  • The application of the proposed law to an entity will be based on self-reporting by the tech company providing any of the listed core digital services. 
  • The draft bill states that a digital enterprise that meets the criteria for being an SSDE is required to notify the CCI within 90 days of qualifying. 
    • The CCI will then decide if the entity meets the criteria to qualify as SSDE.
    • An entity that is part of a group is also required to notify the CCI of other business enterprises within the group that are directly or indirectly involved in providing core digital services as associate digital enterprises. 
    • The CCI, in such cases, may designate the group as SSDE or the other enterprise as associate digital enterprises to the SSDE.
  • Once designated as SSDE, an entity will be required to comply with separate conduct requirements for each core digital service. 
  • The draft bill includes provisions that prevent SSDEs from directly or indirectly favouring their own products, services or lines of businesses or that of related parties.
    • It also says that these SSDEs will not be allowed to restrict end users and business users from using third-party applications or software on its core digital service.

How will the CCI deal with non-compliance?

  • When the commission finds an entity indulging in uncompetitive conduct or an SSDE failing to comply with the obligations listed in the law, it can temporarily restrain the party from carrying on such act until its inquiry concludes. 
  • The commission also has the power to impose monetary penalties on non-compliance with ex-ante obligations and with its orders. 
    • Monetary penalties for non-compliance with ex-ante obligations can go up to 10% of the global turnover of the SSDE. 
  • At the minimum, non-compliance with orders or directions of the commission will involve a penalty of up to ₹1 lakh for each day of non-compliance.


The proposed competition law aims to regulate the anti-competitive practices of large digital enterprises, or big tech, in India. It introduces an ex-ante framework to prevent such conduct, considering the rapid pace of digital markets. The law targets systemically significant digital enterprises (SSDEs) based on specific criteria, imposing obligations and penalties for non-compliance to ensure fair competition in the digital sector.

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