The Centre will take the final call on whether to enact a separate digital competition law or not, but the panel formed to frame the draft Bill is on course to complete its work by end October, CCI Chairperson Ravneet Kaur has said.

“It is under consideration of the government. CCI, as a member of the committee, has been sharing its inputs to the MCA-appointed Committee on a need basis and also our experiences of the last 14 years. I expect the government to decide on that. We are actively involved. We have shared our views. Let’s wait fot the outcome”, Kaur said on the eve of 8th BRICS International Competition Conference 2023. 

Heads of competition authorities from Brazil, Russia, China, South Africa besides India are to meet at this international conference, which is being held in the capital for the next two days. The conference will see the release of BRICS joint documents on the leniency programme and digital economy reports.

Kaur however declined to comment on the CCI’s stance on whether it favours a separate legislation or not.

The Government will have to figure out if it would want a separate digital competition law in the “whole of government approach” that is set to be adopted for regulation of digital markets, experts said.

Three laws

As many as three different laws —to be piloted by different government departments—are now being contemplated for the regulation of digital markets in the country. 

In this “whole of government approach”, there is still a possibility that the proposed digital competition law may not see the light of the day and this cannot be ruled out, said experts. 

The Corporate Affairs Ministry (MCA) recently extended the tenure of the 16-member inter-ministerial panel till the end of October.

Standing Committee on Finance headed by Jayant Sinha had recommended the enactment of a separate digital competition law. The government is not bound to adopt the recommendation of the Standing Committee, experts said.

If enacted into a law, the proposed digital competition legislation is expected to fundamentally alter the regulation of digital markets in India. 

The MCA-appointed Committee on Digital Competition Law (CDCL), which was set up on February 6, has been tasked to examine the need for an ex-ante regulatory mechanism for digital markets through a separate legislation. It has also been tasked to prepare a draft Digital Competition Act. 

The panel will also have to review whether existing provisions in the Competition Act and the Rules and Regulations framed under it are sufficient to deal with the challenges that have emerged from the digital economy. 

India is contemplating the enactment of a Digital Competition Act at a time when there is growing concern among policymakers around the world about the power and dominance of tech giants in the digital economy, and the need to ensure a level playing field for all players in the market. 

Competition law experts are still divided on whether India needs a separate digital competition law or not. Some still contend that it would be premature for India to go in for an ex-ante framework through a separate law to prevent anti-competitive conduct of Big Tech in digital markets.