The Competition Commission of India on Thursday told the Karnataka High Court that Amazon’s claim of the commission not having followed the due process in gathering evidence before ordering a probe into the company and its chief rival Flipkart was unfounded.
Senior counsel Harish Narsappa, who argued for the CCI, told the court that Amazon’s submission was a “mischievous one” and that the ecommerce company was trying to misguide the court by telling it that the antitrust body was overstepping its jurisdiction by ordering the investigation.
“Amazon does not become immune to following laws of this country just because it is following FDI laws,” Narsappa told the court, putting across his point that the CCI was not investigating the foreign direct investment (FDI) the company had brought into the country.
The CCI’s arguments come a day after Amazon told the court that the CCI did not have prima facie evidence to order the investigation into it. The commission’s submissions hinged on it having full jurisdiction to investigate the company for potentially anti-competitive activity.
On Amazon’s claim that the CCI did not approach it prior to making the January 13 order, Narsappa said rules gave the commission complete discretion on whether to invite all, any or none of the parties prior to calling for an investigation.
“Whenever it is convenient to raise this bogey of alternate jurisdiction, it is being done,” Narsappa said, adding that Amazon was essentially telling the CCI not to investigate it by accusing it of not having jurisdiction and not following due procedure to order the investigation into the company.
The CCI told the court that an ecommerce market study, which came out five days prior to the commission’s ordering the probe against Flipkart and Amazon, clearly stated that the issues it had identified might “directly or indirectly, have a bearing on competition” and in some cases these issues might be in contravention to the Competition Act.
Narsappa argued that Amazon’s argument that it should have been invited by the commission to present its case prior to announcing the probe was unfounded. He clarified that case between the All India Online Vendors Association (AIOVA) and Flipkart, over which Amazon had also been called by the CCI last year, did not have any semblance to the current investigation.
Representing Delhi Vyapar Mahasangh (DVM), which had approached the CCI against Amazon and Flipkart,KG Raghvan too came down strongly on Amazon and accused the company of unfair trade practices, including selling items below cost pricing in categories like smartphones, direct-brand partnerships, and prioritising preferred entity sellers like Appario and Cloudtail over other sellers as well as lending them credibility by using terms “fulfilled by Amazon” on the product pages. These arguments were similar to what the DVM had made to the CCI earlier.
Flipkart and the Confederation of All India Traders will present their argument on Friday in court.