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Ravneet Kaur to take up Big Tech dominance abuse issue in CCI meeting

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) is in the process of finalising its investigation against Apple Inc. over abuse of its dominant position. The new Chairperson, Ravneet Kaur, along with other members, is expected to take up the matter in their meeting soon, along with several other pending cases against Big Tech companies, according to people in the know.

Apple declined to comment on the matter until the time of going to press.

Investigations into cases relating to Meta, Swiggy, Zomato, Google, and news publishers are also in advanced stages, it is learned.

No decision has been taken on these matters in the past few months due to a lack of quorum at the CCI. However, with the appointment of Kaur, the CCI has resumed fulfilling its full mandate.

“Matters are being scheduled for listing in the ordinary meetings, and hearings will resume soon,” CCI said in a tweet.

The competition watchdog had launched a probe against the iPhone maker over a violation of antitrust laws — the denial of market access for potential application (app) developers and distributors.

While slapping a penalty of Rs 1,337.76 crore on Google for abusing its dominant position, CCI in its October 2022 order made several observations about the Apple iOS system, which is facing similar allegations.

CCI has said that Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store cannot be considered “substitutes”. It further said that Apple’s App Store is the only channel for app developers to distribute their apps to iOS consumers, which is pre-installed on every iPhone and iPad.

The CCI order also cited Google’s complaint, ‘Together We Fight Society’, which had said that Apple’s imposition of a 30 per cent in-app fee for the distribution of paid digital content and other restrictions hurts competition by raising costs for app developers and customers, while also acting as a barrier to market entry.

The antitrust watchdog had also initiated an investigation against WhatsApp and its parent company, Meta, earlier called Facebook, concerning the updated privacy policy of WhatsApp introduced in early 2021 for adverse effects on competition. The Supreme Court dismissed the plea by WhatsApp and Meta challenging the CCI probe in October 2022.

Among other pending Big Tech investigations, CCI is also expected to hear the findings in the matter relating to the complaint filed by several news organisations alleging abuse of its dominant position by Google.

Govt yet to notify some key Competition Law provisions

Big Tech companies facing the CCI probe have a temporary breather since the government is yet to notify one of the key provisions in the new Competition Act that allows CCI to levy penalties for the global turnover of companies.

The Ministry of Corporate Affairs, while notifying various provisions of the law, did not mention Section 20 of the amendment Bill, which deals with penalties and empowers CCI to “impose such penalty as it may deem fit, which shall be not more than 10 per cent of the average of the turnover or income”.

The new Act defines ‘turnover’ as global turnover derived from all the products and services provided by a person or an enterprise.

One of the other important provisions that are yet to be notified is Section 35 of the amendment Bill, which deals with the settlement clause, giving the option to the company found in violation of the law to settle matters with CCI by paying a certain fee.

It says, “any enterprise, against whom any inquiry has been initiated under sub-Section (1) of Section 26 for contravention of sub-Section (4) of Sections 3 or 4, may, for settlement of the proceedings initiated for the alleged contraventions, submit an application in writing to the commission in such form and upon payment of such fee as may be specified by regulations”.

CCI, meanwhile, is in the process of drafting the regulations for the new provisions in the Act, according to officials. Business Standard

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