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finance & economyJune 16, 2021

India to speed up Amazon and Flipkart antitrust probe

India’s antitrust watchdog plans to expedite a restarted probe into allegations of anti-competitive behaviour at Amazon and Walmart’s Flipkart, as it intensifies scrutiny of Big Tech firms, two sources said.
The comments come as major US technology firms including Twitter and Facebook are at loggerheads with the government over issues such as data privacy bills and policies that some industry executives have termed protectionist.
The Competition Commission of India (CCI) initiated a probe in January last year on the basis of a complaint alleging Amazon and Flipkart promoted select sellers on their e-commerce platforms and that deep discounts stifled competition.
The companies have denied wrongdoing.
Near-immediate legal challenges from the pair stalled the probe for over a year until a court last week allowed it to resume, having dismissed arguments that the CCI lacked evidence.
Though Amazon and Flipkart are likely to appeal, the CCI plans to demand information from them related to the allegations “as quickly as possible”, a source said.
The investigation “will be expedited”, the the source said. Such investigations in India typically take months to complete.
Amazon declined to comment. Flipkart and the CCI did not respond to requests for comment.
The CCI is speeding up all cases involving big technology firms, including assigning additional officers for some cases and working to more stringent internal deadlines, sources familiar with the watchdog’s thinking said.
“Cases involving digital firms are getting a priority at CCI as they can have significant impact on the economy and Indian start-ups,” a source said.
Last year, the CCI began reviewing allegations of Google abusing the position of its Android operating system in the smart TV market, and is likely to soon order a comprehensive antitrust investigation, according to the sources.
Google declined to comment.
Such a probe would be the third against Google, with the Alphabet unit already battling cases relating to Android as well as its payments app.
The CCI is also investigating practices at MakeMyTrip and privacy policy changes at Facebook’s WhatsApp.
The probe into Amazon and Flipkart is restarting at a time when both are battling accusations from offline retailers that their complex business structures allow them to circumvent foreign investment rules for e-commerce.
In February, an investigation based on Amazon documents showed the e-retailer for years gave preferential treatment to a small group of sellers on its Indian platform. Amazon, which has said it “does not give preferential treatment to any seller”, told the court it disagreed with the report.