Info-tech

Walmart’s Flipkart says Indian probe should not treat it the same as Amazon

Reuters New Delhi | Updated on July 19, 2021

Business agreement examined by CCI before ordering probe was only between Amazon and its sellers

Walmart’s Flipkart should not be treated the same as rival Amazon in an antitrust probe as the evidence against the two firms was “qualitatively different”, Flipkart argued in a court filing seen by Reuters.

Both Amazon and Flipkart have challenged the Competition Commission of India (CCI) in court as they seek revocation of a June decision to allow the antitrust probe against them to continue. The companies deny any wrongdoing.

The government has called the US firms arrogant and accused them of using legal routes to stall the investigation.

Karnataka HC allows CCI to probe Amazon, Flipkart

In final submissions made to a court in Karnataka, the Walmart unit argued that CCI and the court “confuse the facts” between the case of Amazon and Flipkart, and overlooked that they were “fierce competitors”.

To back its arguments, it said that a business agreement examined by the CCI before ordering its probe was only between Amazon and its sellers, and there was no such evidence against the Walmart unit.

India e-commerce rules cast cloud over Amazon, Walmart and local rivals

“The allegations and the evidence before the CCI against the Appellant were qualitatively different from those relating to Amazon ... The CCI should have independently examined the case against each of the two platforms,” Flipkart said in its 46-page submission, which was not public.

The court is likely to pass a written order on the appeals in coming days.

Flipkart and Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The CCI didn’t respond outside regular business hours on Sunday.

For years, Amazon and Flipkart have denied allegations from brick-and-mortar retailers about circumventing Indian law by creating complex business structures.

Goyal’s charge

Trade minister Piyush Goyal last month lashed out at US e-commerce giants for filing legal challenges and failing to comply with the CCI’s probe, saying, “if they have nothing to hide ... why don’t they respond to the CCI?”

In February, a Reuters investigation based on internal Amazon documents showed the US firm, for years, had helped a small number of sellers prosper on its platform in India, using them to bypass foreign investment laws. Amazon also has indirect equity stakes in two of its big online sellers, Cloudtail and Appario, which get “subsidised fees”, Reuters reported.

The Walmart unit argued in its submission that “unlike in the case of Amazon”, there were no structural links of any kind between Flipkart and its sellers.

Amazon and Flipkart are leading players in an e-retail market India forecasts will be worth $200 billion by 2026.

Published on July 19, 2021

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