CCI calls for uniform threshold for merger review control

Last Updated: Sat, May 12, 2018 17:12 hrs

[India], May 12 (ANI): Competition Commission of India (CCI) chairman Devender Kumar Sikri stressed on the need for India to revisit the desirability of uniform threshold for the merger review control regime in the country to achieve the intended goals across the sectors including the digital.

With respect to the mergers between companies holding big data which may result in profiling of individuals, and thereby invading their privacy in the digital space, Sikri, who addressed the gathering at an ASSOCHAM event here on Friday, said since data is not accounted as an asset, the traditional asset turnover criteria which is applied in Competition Law may fail to capture potentially those transactions from the competition review, which is a cause of concern.

"We must have sector-wise threshold, I think the time has come and the digital sectors need to be really abreast of that. Targets in these sectors (digital companies) have a limited actual turnover or physical assets thus the asset turnover based notification threshold which has been enforced today in the country might have a blind spot in the digital sector. If relied-on solely, we will not be able to take stock and evaluate them in the merger review," he added.

Highlighting the need to strike a balance to embrace the social benefits of the big data while avoiding harms to the individual, Sikri said transparency, accountability and informed consent would be of key importance.

Furthermore, Sikri noted that a data protection law and authority will provide necessary regulatory architecture. While the CCI would be addressing the competition issues that may fall within its purview, what is more important is that the regulations and regulators will have to work in tandem as there could be potential abuse of dominance cases which might also involve breach of data protection issues, he added.

"There should be then, appropriate remedies which address both anti-competitive practices and the data. The authorities responsible for data governance in the digital economy will have to have a continuous dialogue to ensure that a cohesive regulatory architecture is in place which promotes efficient digital markets," said Sikri.

Talking about the present scenario, Sikri said people, in many ways, are not only using but are also becoming dependent on the data-driven digital economy and innovative services it delivers. Also, the rapidly-evolving data landscape and increasing number of data-centric businesses are posing colossal challenge.

"They are altering the traditional parameters of regulation. They are making the regulators develop innovative perspective on how to apply the existing instruments and devise new tools wherever necessary," he added.

However, the CCI Chairman noted that while the competition authority understands that data companies are not an economic threat in themselves, they are a source of innovation and so must be encouraged for economic development. Having said this, the practices of the dominant digital players need to be competition compliant, he opined.

"The collusion between digital players through self-learning algorithms is one of the biggest challenges that the Competition Law enforcers are facing. Algorithms are not systems that are moving on their own, somebody has designed them and there is some logic put into that," said Sikri.

Terming it as the biggest challenge and the latest frontier of Competition Law, he said it is the cutting edge where laws for most parts are genuinely struggling to keep pace with the developments in technology.

"Regulators have not yet much idea, I must confess what has to be done to make human centric anti-trust laws apply effectively to the bot intermediated transactions and that connect is a real challenge. But instrumentally, I believe a firm legal framework for data protection is the foundation on which data driven innovation and entrepreneurship can flourish while also keeping personal data of citizens secured and protected," said the CCI chairman suggesting that personal data which is collected, used, shared or stored should be governed by a separate regulatory framework," he explained.

Meanwhile, Union Law Secretary Suresh Chandra opined that by creating a good data protection law, India could extend well beyond being a mere supplier to the world's multi-national corporations. (ANI)



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