The Karnataka High Court, on Wednesday (December 9), posted the final date for hearing India’s antitrust watchdog, the Competition Commission of India’s plea for vacating the stay on an investigation into ecommerce giants Amazon and Flipkart, for anticompetitive practices, to January 18, 2021.
In February, both ecommerce companies had approached the Karnataka HC against CCI’s order for investigating them for potentially anticompetitive activities based on information filed by trader group Delhi Vyapar Mahasangh (DVM) and the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT).
In response, the Karnataka HC, on February 14, had ordered an interim stay on CCI’s proposed investigation, saying that the competition watchdog didn’t have adequate prima facie evidence to launch a probe against Amazon and Flipkart, and had given all parties concerned a two-month period to respond.
CCI then approached the Supreme Court on October 7 to appeal against Karnataka HC’s stay, as there had been a delay of more than 200 days in hearing the case. The apex court, while refusing the admit CCI’s plea, directed the Karnataka HC to decide on the matter within six weeks.
Traders’ bodies CAIT and DVM have accused Amazon and Flipkart of giving deep discounts, preferential treatment to select sellers and more. Looking into these complaints, CCI had ordered a probe based on ‘prima facie’ evidence just two days before Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos landed in India on a business trip in January 2020. Last year, Minister of Industry and Commerce Piyush Goyal had been mediating this matter.
CAIT had called for a nationwide protest during Amazon CEO Bezos’ visit to India and protested outside the stadium he was speaking at in Delhi. Besides this, the traders’ body has also written to several government departments, ministers and officials, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, highlighting their plight.
In August this year, AIOVA had filed an antitrust case against Amazon with the Competition Commission of India (CCI), accusing it of anti-competitive practices through preferential treatment of seller entities such as Cloudtail, Amazon Retail and Amazon Wholesale, where it either holds a stake or they are its group companies.
The AIOVA had alleged that Amazon India’s wholesale arm would buy goods in bulk from manufacturers and sell them at a loss to sellers such as Cloudtail. Such sellers would then offer goods on Amazon India at big discounts.
A similar investigation for “abuse of dominance” had been initiated against Flipkart earlier this year.