On May 10, 2024, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) notified the CCI (General) Amendment Regulations, 2024, to amend the provisions of the CCI (General) Regulations, 2009. These amendments relate to the treatment of confidential information during CCI proceedings. This follows CCI’s publication of the draft amendments in February and its invitation to the public for comments.

Some of the key aspects of the amendments are as follows:

Anyone who asks for confidentiality of any information or document has to hereafter self-certify that the information is not available in the public domain, is known only to very few people (such as only some employees and business associates), he had taken steps to ensure secrecy of the information and that the information cannot be obtained by others.

However, the amendments ask the seeker of confidentiality to self-certify the confidentiality claims by way of affidavits, as against a simple undertaking.

Earlier, the CCI had a discretion in setting up ‘confidentiality ring’. The ring would consist of representatives of the parties who could access confidential information. Now, after the amendments, the parties should make a request to the CCI for setting up a confidentiality ring. The request should be made through an affidavit and made within 10 days of the receipt of the non-confidential version of the investigation report. The parties in the confidentiality ring can apply for inspection of documents within 7 days, and must complete the inspection within 21 days. The CCI has the discretion to extend these timelines.

Writing in Mondaq, Unnati Agrawal, Nikita Agarwal, Swapnil Singh and Hrishav Kumar of the law firm IndusLaw have said that the amendments would “further bolster the already successful confidentiality regime of the CCI” by streamlining the procedure related to submission of confidential information and creation of confidentiality rings which will enable effective and timely disposal of matters.

Further, the Amended Regulation has provided a much-needed respite to the parties by specifically allowing them to make a request for setting up a confidentiality ring which will provide them with an opportunity to effectively defend themselves within a specific timeframe.

However, the authors note that the necessity for introduction of the obligation to self-certify confidentiality claims through affidavits is unclear as it may make the process more onerous for the parties. “Nevertheless, it is heartening to see the CCI recognise the internal administrative difficulties of the enterprises and accordingly, extend the timeline for making requests to set up a confidentiality ring from 7 to 10 days from the receipt of the non-confidential version of the Director General’s report,” they say.