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16-Member Panel set up to Draft Digital Competition Act within 3 months

Draft Digital Competition Act: A month after a Parliamentary panel sought a new digital competition law, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) has constituted a 16-member committee to look into the Draft Digital Competition Act. Chaired by Corporate Affairs Secretary Manoj Govil, the panel will review existing competition norms and will examine the need for new legislations to tame the digital gatekeepers.  Joint Secretary (Competition) in the Corporate Affairs Ministry will serve as member secretary.

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More About The Panel

  • The panel will also study international best practices with regard to regulation and other government policies in the field of digital markets.
  • The committee will also review the practices of major players (Systemically Important Digital Intermediaries) in the digital domain, which ‘limit or have the potential to cause harm in digital markets.’
  • The panel has been tasked with submitting its report, including a draft of the Digital Competition Act (DCA), to the authorities in the next three months.
  • The Committee will also comprise of CCI chairperson, Chairman of Indian Angel Network and NASSCOM cofounder Saurabh Srivastava, retired Professor Aditya Bhattacharjea, Khaitan & Co’s Haigreve Khaitan, Pallavi Shardul Shroff of Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co, among others.

Draft Digital Competition Act: Eye On Big Tech:

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The government has been moving at a fast pace ever since the Standing Committee on Finance tabled its report in the Parliament in late December. The committee specifically sought the introduction of a new digital competition law to curb the dominance of big tech players.

The report had also called for giving more teeth to the competition watchdog and had recommended setting up specialised Digital Markets units within the CCI to closely monitor tech giants.

The aftermath saw big tech players come out all guns blazing, albeit implicitly, against the report. Asia Internet Coalition, which represents the interests of players such as Google, Meta and Amazon, termed the report prescriptive, absolutist and regressive in nature. The industry body also went on to claim that the recommended digital competition law could dampen digital innovation in the country.

CCI Probe on Big Techs:

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  • Besides, the government has also tightened regulatory screws around many of the big tech players, especially social media platforms. Google has been the subject of two separate antitrust penalties, cumulatively totalling over INR 2,200 Cr, for its alleged abuse of dominance in the Android devices market and with regard to its Play Store policies. The matter is currently pending before the NCLAT, after being tried before the Supreme Court.
  • Meta is also facing a CCI probe with regards to its messaging platform WhatsApp’s 2021 privacy policy update while Twitter is embroiled in a legal tangle with the central government in the Karnataka High Court over the latter’s ‘innocuous’ takedown requests.
  • Additionally, the government has also brought a waft of legislation from digital data protection bill to IT Act amendments to build a regulatory framework to make social media platforms answerable to authorities and to increase compliance.
  • With the new panel all set to build a consensus on a draft digital competition framework, it could mount problems for the big tech players which are already reeling under increased regulatory compliances and showdowns with the Indian government.

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