Competition Comm initiates studies on the telecom sector

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Competition Commission is conducting studies on the country’s telecom sector as well as merger and acquisition in the digital market, the watchdog’s Chairperson Ashok Kumar Gupta said on Monday as it seeks to bolster capabilities to deal with unfair business ways.

The fair trade regulator, which has an “overarching jurisdiction” across sectors, has powers to act against anti-competitive practices and also promote fair competition.

In an interview with PTI, Gupta said the Competition Commission of India (CCI) is planning to undertake market studies in other sectors as well.

“At present, apart from market study on telecom sector, a study on merger and acquisition in digital market is going on. CCI is also planning to initiate market study in pharmaceutical sector,” he said.

Amid increasing online business activities, including eCommerce portals, there have also been concerns in certain quarters about the possible anti-competition impact on offline businesses. Against this backdrop, the regulator is also looking to enhance its expertise to deal with competition issues arising out of the digital economy.

There has also been consolidation in the digital market as well as the telecom space.

“As a market regulator, CCI has an overarching jurisdiction across sectors. However, in recent times, digital markets and eCommerce have been the areas where CCI has been building its expertise through market studies, etc to address the competition issues arising out of the digital economy,” Gupta said in an e-mail interview.

Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) has started the market study on the telecom sector on behalf of the Commission, which is currently looking into an interim report submitted by the organisation.

“The market study will be purely a fact-finding exercise to develop a clear understanding of the telecom sector in India and its prevailing landscape.

“It will be designed to answer broad issues of inquiry like change in competition strategies with the adoption of new technology, analysis of the market/s and assessment of level of concentration and competition, vertical integration between access and content services, impact on competition of regulatory and policy developments etc,” Gupta said.

At present, the stakeholder consultation is complete and an interim report has been submitted by ICRIER, he said, adding that the report is being perused by the commission.

“The stakeholders consulted include TSPs/ISPs including industry associations, Internet Companies including associations, academic researchers/ sector experts, tower companies and industry association TAIPA, device and equipment manufacturers, MVNOs, DoT and Trai,” he said.

TSPs and ISPs are Telecom Service Providers and Internet Service Providers, MVNOs are Mobile Virtual Network Operators, TAIPA is the Tower and Infrastructure Providers Association, DoT is the Department of Telecommunication and Trai is the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.

Earlier, the regulator carried out a detailed market study on e-commerce sector that looked into market trends, distribution methods and strategies.

The study was a combination of secondary research, questionnaire survey, focused group discussions, one-on-one meetings, and a multi-stakeholder workshop and covered three verticals in the eCommerce space namely online retail shopping, online hotel booking, and online food delivery.

Lack of platform neutrality and deep discounting were among the competition concerns that emerged from the study.

Following the findings of the study, Gupta said the watchdog enumerated certain areas for self-regulation by the eCommerce marketplace platforms with the aim to reduce information asymmetry, promote a competition on the merits, and to foster a sustainable eCommerce ecosystem in India.

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