Anti-Trust Violations in India: An Overview

Posted On - 17 April, 2024 • By - King Stubb & Kasiva


Antitrust laws, also known as competition laws, are a set of regulations designed to promote fair competition in a market. They prevent businesses from engaging in practices that stifle competition, such as price fixing or forming cartels. This ensures a level playing field for businesses, encourages innovation, and ultimately benefits consumers by keeping prices lower and product quality higher.

In India, the primary legal framework for enforcing antitrust regulations is the Competition Act, 2002.  This Act was enacted to foster a competitive market environment, protect consumers from anti-competitive practices, and ensure the healthy growth of the Indian economy. It prohibits specific agreements, condemns the abuse of a dominant market position, and regulates mergers and acquisitions that could potentially harm competition.

Types of Anti-Trust Violations in India

Anti-Competitive Agreements

Anti-competitive agreements refer to arrangements between competing businesses aimed at manipulating markets, stifling competition, or unfairly gaining advantage over others. In India, such agreements are regulated under Section 3 of the Competition Act. These agreements have various forms such as:

  • Price fixing: This occurs when competitors agree to set prices at a certain level. This could eliminate price competition. For example, if several companies agree to fix the prices of a particular product, consumers may end up paying inflated prices.
  • Bid rigging: In bid rigging, competing firms collude to manipulate the bidding process, ensuring that a particular bidder wins a contract at an artificially high price.
  • Market allocation: This involves agreements among competitors to divide markets or customers among themselves. This limits the competition in specific geographic areas or customer segments.

Abuse of dominant position

A dominant position refers to a significant degree of market power held by a firm, enabling it to behave independently of competitive pressures. Under Section 4 of the Competition Act, abusing this dominant position is prohibited. It could include the following practices:

  • Predatory pricing: This occurs when a dominant firm sets prices below cost to drive competitors out of the market. Once competitors are eliminated, the firm can raise prices to recoup losses and exploit consumers.
  • Denial of access to essential facilities: If a dominant firm controls essential infrastructure or facilities necessary for other firms to compete in the market, denying access to these facilities can be considered abusive. For example, if a dominant railroad company refuses to allow competitors to use its tracks, it unfairly restricts competition in the transportation sector.

Regulation of combinations

Under Sections 5 and 6 of the Competition Act, mergers and acquisitions that could potentially harm competition are subject to scrutiny and approval by the Competition Commission of India (“CCI”). This is aimed at preventing the creation of monopolies or the undue concentration of market power that could harm consumers or other market participants.

Enforcement in India

The CCI is vested with the primary responsibility of upholding the provisions outlined in the Competition Act. It is an independent statutory body and is tasked with investigating alleged breaches of competition regulations, rendering judgments on cases, and imposing penalties on companies found to engage in anti-competitive practices.[1]

The enforcement process follows a systematic approach:

  • Complaints: Individuals or entities are empowered to submit complaints to the CCI, detailing instances of potential antitrust violations.
  • Investigation: Upon receipt of a substantiated complaint, the CCI launches an inquiry to gather evidence and evaluate the impact on market competition.
  • Orders: Drawing upon the findings of the investigation, the CCI issues a range of directives, including:
  • Cease and desist orders, compelling companies to cease anti-competitive activities.
  • Divestiture orders, mandating the disposal of specific assets to restore competitive dynamics.
  • Imposition of penalties, in the form of fines, on companies found guilty of violations.

The CCI holds the authority to levy significant financial penalties on entities found in contravention of antitrust laws. This punitive measure not only serves as a deterrent but also underscores the seriousness with which such violations are regarded within the regulatory framework.

Recent Developments

Currently, in the United States, Apple is facing an antitrust class action lawsuit alleging it has a monopoly on iCloud storage. It is claimed that Apple unfairly restricts the storage of certain iPhone and iPad files, like app data and device settings, to its iCloud platform. This forces users to choose between iCloud and losing access to crucial data when switching devices.

This alleged practice has given iCloud a dominant market share, estimated at 70%, and allowed Apple to charge higher prices for the service due to a lack of competition. The lawsuit seeks to represent millions of users nationwide who may have been overcharged for iCloud due to Apple’s allegedly anti-competitive practices. This has been presented as an “abuse of dominance.”

Even in India, recently, Google was fined INR 1337.76 crore by the CCI for abusing its dominant position in the Android mobile market. The CCI found Google guilty of several anti-competitive practices. These included forcing phone manufacturers to pre-install a bundle of Google apps, restricting manufacturers from modifying the Android operating system, and allegedly entering into agreements that prevented them from launching devices with competing operating systems. These practices limited user choice, stifled competition from other app developers and operating systems, and potentially hindered innovation.[2]

Conclusion and Looking Forward

In the coming years, we may see stricter enforcement of antitrust laws in India, particularly targeting dominant companies. This could result in significant penalties for those engaging in unfair competition practices. While this heightened scrutiny aims to create a fairer marketplace, encouraging innovation and benefiting consumers, it also means companies will need to review their strategies and ensure compliance with regulations to maintain their competitive edge.



King Stubb & Kasiva,
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