Panel Grills Big Tech, Mulls Law To Curb Anti-Competitive Practices

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Executives of Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Twitter and Uber appeared before the panel

Market dominance of tech players is precluding competition and killing Indian players: Parliamentary Committee

Panel members discussed preparing a legal framework to curb anti-competitive practices of big tech players: Report

Top executives of all major big tech companies deposed before a parliamentary panel on Tuesday (August 23) to discuss issues related to alleged anti-competitive practices of these tech giants.

The meeting was attended by Amazon India’s country manager of consumer business Manish Tiwary, Google India’s director of public policy Archana Gulati, Apple India’s managing director of strategy and policy Virat Bhatia, and Facebook India’s head of public policy Rajiv Aggarwal.

Netflix India’s head of policy Ambika Khurana, Twitter India’s senior director of public policy Samiran Gupta, and Uber India president Prabhjeet Singh were also amongst the attendees. 

Sources told PTI that the panel discussed preparing a legal framework to curb anti-competitive practices of such players. 

Certain members of the panel termed the market dominance of tech players as ‘precluding competition’ and ‘killing’ Indian players. On the other hand, some members of the committee called for a customer-centric legislation that was not business unfriendly.

“The members of the panel were worried about whether or not small sellers actually benefit from big tech. They also asked about the initiatives taken to ensure the benefit of small sellers,” a source was quoted as saying. 

The deliberations took place while the executives were called before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance, led by BJP MP and former union minister Jayant Sinha. The committee is looking into various aspects of anti-competition tactics employed by big tech firms.

The discussions were marked by a fierce debate. At one point during the deliberations, all big tech attendees suggested that there was no further need for regulation of the Indian digital market, the report said.

In response, a lawmaker said that if the big tech majors were going to be so ‘non-cooperative’, then they should ‘leave it to the limited wisdom of lawmakers to regulate in the manner as they deem fit’.

“The parliamentary panel will be issuing a report on the evolution of competition law for digital markets, that is the report that we are putting together…We will deal specifically with matters related to competitive conduct and competitive behaviour, which will include issues related to pricing, platform neutrality, and how data is used in the adjacent markets,” Sinha was quoted as saying.

According to him, the report could be published as soon as the first week of September. 

Sinha also said that the panel was ‘intensely’ examining competition laws from across the globe, adding that the final report would also tailor the suggestions to cater to India’s unique circumstances.

“The EU (European Union) has just passed a Digital Market Act and a Digital Services Act, while there are several bills pending in the British parliament and the US Congress associated with digital markets. Other jurisdictions like Australia and Korea have passed laws associated with digital markets,” said Sinha.

The panel has been holding a slew of meetings with stakeholders, including industry associations, regulators and ministries, to formulate the report on anti-competitive practices of big tech firms.

The development comes amidst a major crackdown by the government on big tech companies. A host of companies, including Google, Amazon and Uber, are under the radar of the Competition Commission of India (CCI) for deep discounting tactics and anti-competitive behaviour. 

Earlier this month, the Centre also introduced the Competition Amendment Bill, 2022 which has proposed a broader framework with regards to anti-competitive practices as well as mergers and acquisitions.

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