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CCI decision to probe Amazon is in flagrant violation of Competition Act: Gopal Subramanium

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) probe into e-commerce giant Amazon is in flagrant violation of the Competition Act, Senior Advocate Gopal Subramanium argued before the Karnataka High Court on Monday.

Before a Single Judge Bench of Justice PS Dinesh Kumar, Subramanium argued that to investigate into an online platform, there must be proper information by a bona fide informant.

The Bench was hearing two petitions moved by Amazon and Flipkart, seeking to quash the probe ordered by the CCI for alleged violations of Competition law.

When the matter was taken up for hearing today, Subramanium informed the Court about the allegations raised by Delhi Vyapar Mahasangh (DVM) against the e-commerce giant.

On the allegation that Amazon was engaging in exclusive agreements, Subramanium contended that there were exclusive launches of mobile phones such as Apple, Samsung etc on the Amazon site. However, during the said period of launch, the same is available on the online stores of such brands as well. Therefore, there is no exclusivity of products, he added.

On the point of deep discounts, Subramanium elaborated that during the launch period of certain products, the dealers are prepared to slash the maximum retail price (MRPs). This has been termed as deep discounting by the CCI.

Subramanium further contended that Amazon does not have preferred sellers, contrary to what was alleged by the informant.

“Those who have higher ratings, better sales are chosen by the algorithm. They are given rebates but really speaking, there is no preference given by Amazon to its sellers”, said the Senior Advocate.

During the hearing, Amazon also raised concerns over the fact that CCI did not test the bona fides of the informant. Subramanium pointed out that the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) had filed multiple petitions against Amazon and was not able to procure favorable orders. Subsequently, it approached CCI for the same purpose. This is “prima facie out of place“, argued Subramanium.

The matter will be heard next on January 20.

In December 2020, the Court had decided to take up the matter for final hearing on January 18.

Last year, in February, the Court had granted interim relief to Amazon by staying the investigation into alleged anti-competitive practices on the part of the e-commerce giant ordered by the CCI in January 2020. Shortly after, a similar order was passed by the Court in a petition moved by Flipkart challenging the CCI probe.

 

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