The centre-appointed expert panel to draft Digital Competition Law for regulating Big Tech has further invited the ire of the stakeholders.
In the last meeting of the panel held on March 4, Center had invited two more representatives from the law firms which are currently representing Google before NCLAT in the ongoing matter. These representatives reportedly attended the panel’s meeting where news publishers and start-ups made presentations.
As per sources, the next meeting of the panel is scheduled for the upcoming Saturday where these representatives have again been invited to participate.
Earlier also, stakeholders including news publishers and start-ups had objected to overwhelming presence of law firms representing big tech, including Google in the composition of the panel. The panel currently does not have any representative from news publishers.
Expanding of MCA-appointed panel
Meanwhile, Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF)—a think tank for digital start-ups, has reiterated its demand for expanding the MCA-appointed Panel to frame a draft digital competition law so as to give better balance to its composition and ensure the interests of Indian technology startups are safeguarded.
“In ADIF’s view, the government may consider expanding the, with more representation from Indian startup-focused policy committee think tanks as well as renowned Indian business stalwarts, so as to ensure safeguard of Indian technology startups, to help them become self-reliant and self-sustainable”, an ADIF spokesperson said.
ADIF, being one of the largest body, representing the interests of Indian startups and working in the competition regime, is keen to be included in the committee, to safeguard the interests of Indian startups.
Already, the Digital News Publishers Association (DNPA) General-Secretary Sujatha Gupta has expressed hope that MCA would Co-opt digital news publishers into the Panel so as to give them a level-playing field and participate in the deliberations of the committee.
The Corporate Affairs Ministry (MCA) had on February 6 constituted a 10-member inter-ministerial committee to examine the need for a separate law on competition in digital markets. The panel, had been among other things, tasked to prepare a draft Digital Competition Act.
Terms of reference
The Panel’s terms of reference include a review as to whether existing provisions of the Competition Act 2002 and the rules and regulations framed thereunder are sufficient to deal with the challenges that have emerged from the digital economy and to examine the need for an ex ante regulatory mechanism for digital markets through separate legislation.
Meanwhile, the ADIF spokesperson said that Bigtech’s have increasing returns to scale and thus often tip quickly (within 3 to 5 years) to winner-take-all monopolistic outcomes.
India must identify the small number of leading players or market winners that can negatively influence competitive conduct in the digital ecosystem, as ‘Systemically Important Digital Intermediaries (SIDls), as recommended by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance in its recent report on ‘Anti- competitive practices by Bigtech companies’, the ADIF spokesperson added.
Also, there is Adverse Impact on Indian Startup Ecosystem, as Rules of the game for Digital Internet Ecosystem are set up by BigTechs and Indian startup ecosystem have to abide by.
This ends up in consumers paying homogenously eg A recent study in Korea estimated Apple users paying an additional 350 billion won annually due to IAP/Subscription charges levied by Apple. Also, Bundling of apps with OS/App Store through unilateral agreements creates price asymmetry, due to self-preferencing and anti-steering provisions. Also there is need for an ex-ante regulation, as timely intervention is a must in digital markets. Ex-ante laws are specially required to address the dual role played by SIDIs, both as platform service provider to business users and itself as a service provider to end users, the ADIF spokesperson added.