Ensure market processes are not undermined: FM to CCI

Ensure market processes are not undermined: FM to CCI

New Delhi: The Competition Commission of India should take "extra care" and ensure that no "omission or commission" result in undermining of market processes as businesses look for revival after the pandemic, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Thursday.

Addressing a virtual event to commemorate the 12th annual day of the Competition Commission of India (CCI), the minister also appreciated the efforts taken by the regulator over the years and urged it to continue with a pro-active approach.

The CCI has the mandate to ensure fair competition in the market across sectors and also has powers to clamp down on anti-competitive practices.

"I would also want to just mention, not in a left-handed way but certainly mention that knowingly or unknowingly, no omission or commission should result in the market process getting undermined.

"... Competition Commission will ensure that market process should never get undermined because it is very critical considering the post-pandemic revival. It is going to meet with so many challenges even otherwise," Sitharaman said.

Noting that the year 2020 was extraordinary and challenging, 2021 is proving to be equally challenging, the finance minister said that after the pandemic, companies are going to be scrambling to somehow stimulate themselves and try to grow.

"So, extra care should be (taken). I am sure you are doing that, I am only reminding you because getting into your teens now is going to have new challenges as any teenager would have. You as a Competition Commission have very wise heads... wisdom will overcome the challenges of teenage growth pangs," she noted.

The comments also come at a time when businesses are facing challenges posed by the Coronavirus pandemic, which has also significantly hit overall economic growth.

Sitharaman, who is also at the helm of the corporate affairs ministry, stressed that the CCI should be pro-actively taking up a lot of things in order to be "ahead of the curve" as well as make sure that market conditions are kept sacrosanct.

"I think it is important that legitimate claims of companies even as they try to recover are heard patiently and the Commission rises from its usual role of keeping the letter and spirit of the (Competition) Act intact," she said.

Sitharaman added that it is also important that the Commission "sees how proactively it can engage with companies so that stimulus is also given by virtue of the way in which you will look at revival of companies".

Appreciating efforts of the CCI to draw best global practices, she said about 1,100 cases have been undertaken, particularly focusing on mergers and aquisitions (M&As).

"All over the globe, you'll find there is an inclination towards greater merging and also acquiring companies, all driven towards scaling up of operations.

"So, it is good that you're going through rigorously M&As (of) so many different companies because it tells so many experiences which will be important to see how they align with the Competition Act itself," she said.

Speaking on the occasion, Minister of State for Finance Anurag Singh Thakur urged the CCI to be nimble and change itself with the changing market dynamics.

In these uncertain times, Thakur said the challenge is not only to accelerate economic growth but also to ensure that the steps towards recovery do not irreversibly alter market dynamics.

The stimulus package has provided strong impetus to various crucial sectors of the Indian economy, he added. CCI Chairperson Ashok Kumar Gupta said the Commission has reviewed more than 1,100 cases of anti-competitive agreements and abuse of dominant position across diverse sectors.

"Pragmatic application of competition law is of particular importance in moments of crisis to ensure that market failures are avoided and economic recovery is fast and sustained," he noted.

According to him, the regulator also took a balanced approach in its enforcement decisions focusing on faster market corrections and a nuanced view in levying penalties, particularly for MSMEs, considering their financial distress.

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