The latest round in Big Tech’s antitrust fight in India has a watchdog agency poised to accelerate a probe into Amazon and Walmart-controlled Flipkart. According to a Reuters report, sources said that the Competition Commission of India would demand information regarding anti-competitive practices from them “as quickly as possible.”
The investigation “will be expedited,” one source said. The commission is speeding up all cases involving Big Tech, including by deploying additional officers for some cases and working to meet more stringent internal deadlines, per the report.
“Cases involving digital firms are getting a priority at CCI, as they can have a significant impact on the economy and Indian startups,” said one source. The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The companies have denied any wrongdoing. Legal challenges by the companies have stalled the probe for over a year. Reuters said that Amazon declined to comment, and Flipkart and the commission did not respond to requests for comment.
Earlier this month (June 11), an Indian court rejected pleas by Amazon and Flipkart to end an antitrust investigation. India’s High Court Justice P.S. Dinesh Kumar in Karnataka said the court would not grant the companies’ petitions for relief. “It would be unwise to prejudge the issues … at this stage and scuttle the investigation,” Kumar wrote in his 51-page order.
The ruling cleared a path for the original probe, which was sidelined in February of last year, said Abir Roy, a lawyer for the Indian trader group Delhi Vyapar Mahasangh. However, the companies could again appeal the high court’s ruling.
The competition commission had started an investigation in January of last year on the basis of an allegation that Amazon and Flipkart promoted select sellers on their eCommerce platforms and that deep discounts stifled competition. The commission had outlined four antitrust behaviors allegedly practiced by both Amazon and Flipkart, including prioritizing some sellers with exclusive smartphone launches and selective discounts.
The commission’s probe is yet another hurdle Amazon and Flipkart have faced over foreign investment mandates and allegations of sidestepping the laws in India.