With the expiry of the term of the Committee on Digital Competition Law (CDCL) on August 5, the Centre is likely to extend the panel’s tenure by another month. 

If this were to happen, then it would be the fourth extension for the 16-member panel, which was constituted on February 6. The Digital Competition law panel was originally required to complete its work by May 6.

The entire work of this panel on Digital Competition law is now on the last leg and the members are deliberating the contours of the bill, sources said.

The members of CDCL are yet to adopt its report and the draft bill on proposed Digital Competition law, they added.

The tenure of CDCL is likely to be extended by a month even as the Standing Committee on Finance headed by BJP MP Jayant Sinha had recently asked the government to apprise it of the findings of MCA-appointed committee on digital competition law.

In its 60th report — tabled in Lok Sabha recently—the Standing Committee on Finance had urged the Digital Competition Law Panel to focus on the ten anti-competitive practices (ACPs) identified by the Parliamentary Panel.

These ten ACPs are anti steering provisions; platform neutrality/self preferencing; bundling and tying; data usage; mergers and acquisitions; pricing/deep discounting; exclusive tie ups; search and ranking preferencing; restricting third party applications and advertising policies.

It maybe recalled that CDCL was constituted in February 2023 to frame the draft Digital Competition law, with an objective to bring digital gatekeepers, including AI platforms under the ex-ante framework to be introduced through this legislation.

While the 10-member CDCL, which also has invitees from six ministries and other government departments, was initially given three months to submit its report, the tenure of the panel was subsequently extended thrice by a month.

Indications are that the much anticipated bill on the proposed Digital Competition law is unlikely to be moved even in the winter session of Parliament.

Ministry of Company Affairs (MCA) had tasked the Digital Competition Law Panel to examine the need for separate law on competition in digital markets with a view to review the existing provisions in the Competition Act 2002 with respect to the challenges that have emerged from the digital economy; examine the need for ex-ante regulatory mechanism through a separate legislation; study international best practices, other regulatory regimes/ institutional mechanisms/ government policies regarding competition in digital markets; study practices of Systemically Important Digital Intermediaries (SIDIs). While most of the Big Tech is not in favour of ex-ante measures, the start-ups want the government to quickly introduce them in the statute book to safeguard the interests of the domestic start-up ecosystem.

The government, as part of vision for Digital India, expects the digital economy of the country to touch $1 trillion by 2025-26.

The Standing Committee on Finance had in its 53rd report titled ‘Anti- competitive practices by big tech companies’ suggested an ex-ante framework to regulate ‘Systemically Important Digital Intermediaries’ (SIDIs) under a new Digital Competition Act.

This signals a new era of ex-ante frameworks, meant to cover only SIDIs in digital markets, marking a significant exit from the existing sector-agnostic framework which covers all market players, said competition law experts.

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