Probe against e-com firms to go on: SC
Amazon and Flipkart must face antitrust probes ordered by CCI, the court said.
The Supreme Court on Monday refused to stay the antitrust probe against e-commerce giants Amazon and Flipkart, observing that the firms must submit themselves to the inquiry by the Competition Commission of India (CCI).
“We expect big organisations like Amazon and Flipkart to voluntarily go for an inquiry,” a bench, headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana, remarked while declining to entertain the petitions by Amazon and Flipkart against an order of the Karnataka high court.
The bench, which also included justices Vineet Saran and Surya Kant, told the counsel for the companies: “You have to submit to an inquiry. You must go.”
On a request made by Flipkart’s lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi, the court gave the companies four weeks for appearing before the Director General (DG) of the CCI to join the investigation. Singhvi pointed out that the time to show up before the DG was expiring on Monday.
“We see no ground to interfere with the impugned judgment of the high court. However, we grant four weeks for the parties to submit to the inquiry,” the court recorded in its order.
Senior counsel Gopal Subramanium represented Amazon before the top court while solicitor general Tushar Mehta appeared for the CCI.
When contacted, an Amazon spokesperson said: “Amazon has a high bar on compliance and we comply with all applicable laws. We will extend full cooperation to the CCI investigation”.
A Flipkart spokesperson said while the company has not received the order yet, it respects the decision of the Supreme Court. “We are in compliance with applicable Indian laws and will cooperate with the investigation,” the spokesperson added.
The case arises out of the CCI’s order last year, directing a probe against the two e-commerce firms into their practices such as discounting, exclusive tie-ups and private labels.
Flipkart contended that the manner of questioning by the CCI is “invasive” in nature, citing its questionnaire that asked for a list of Flipkart’s top sellers, online discounts and pacts with smartphone makers.