The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has amended its existing regulations so as to revamp its “confidentiality ring” regime that provides access to commercially sensitive and confidential information to authorised persons appointed by the parties during proceedings before the Competition watchdog.

The “Confidentiality Ring” concept was introduced by the CCI in April 2022 to provide comfort to the corporates sharing commercial information with the competition watchdog. 

A confidentiality ring allowed parties access to confidential information/documents of other parties during an investigation to defend themselves effectively.

Under the amended regime, notified on Friday, parties involved must now self-certify their confidentiality claims through affidavits. 

Also, CCI has now put in place strict timelines for setting up a Confidentiality Ring. Timelines have been provided for submission of supporting undertaking and affidavit, and to access to case records. This will help avoid undue delays in the adjudication process.

CCI has also extended the timeline to request the setup of a Confidentiality Ring from 7 to ten days after receiving the non-confidential investigation report. The duration of access to file inspections has been increased.

The CCI has also increased the fees for access to file from ₹ 1,000 to ₹ 2,500. The duration of the slots have been increased from 1 hour to 2 hours. 

EXPERTS’ TAKE 

Dinoo Muthappa, Partner in Competition Law Practice, Talwar, Thakore & Associates,  said “Through its latest string of amendments to procedural rules, the CCI has demonstrated a commitment towards expediting the disposal of cases under the Competition Act as well as instilling accountability and discipline in its investigations”.

These changes – notably, refining the procedure to establish confidentiality rings, and stringent protocols for handling confidential information – are aimed at  streamlining enforcement proceedings and ensuring compliance, she added.

“These amendments also show CCI’s consideration of industry comments as the timeline for filing an application for setting up a confidentiality ring has been increased. And while the CCI has increased fees for access to file, the CCI has also increased the duration for inspection / access (from 1 hours to 2 hours)”, Muthappa said.

Overall, these amendments are about fine-tuning the process to ensure everyone plays by the rules and processes move along without undue delay, she added.

Samir Gandhi, Co-founder and Partner, Axiom5 Law Chambers said “The Amendments to the confidentiality provisions of the CCIs regulations optimize the process related to submitting confidential information, establishing confidentiality rings, and accessing confidential information of other parties”.

This is a welcome move and a positive step towards expeditious resolution of cases, he said.

“However, the introduction of a requirement to submit affidavits in place of the existing undertakings, will make the process for seeking confidentiality more cumbersome and may not have been necessary,” Gandhi said.

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