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Digital Competition Law in India: Uncertain Future

by Sana Gori
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Digital Stalemate

The Indian government’s ambition to introduce a Digital Competition Law is currently facing significant resistance from prominent tech industry players, creating an impasse among members of the government-appointed panel. The parliamentary finance committee, advocating for a separate law to regulate major tech companies, stresses the importance of specific criteria to prevent adverse effects on competition and hinder the growth of startups.

Postponement Likely Due to General Elections

Sources reveal that the future of the proposed Digital Competition Law is uncertain, primarily due to resistance from major tech companies and a lack of consensus among panel members. With general elections on the horizon, the imposition of the model code of conduct could further delay a decision on the law until after the elections or potentially postpone it to the next government post-May 2024.

Committee Struggles to Reach Consensus

The committee responsible for formulating the Digital Competition Law, comprising legal experts, government representatives, and the chairperson of the Competition Commission of India (CCI), has faced challenges in reaching a consensus. Despite approximately nine meetings, the committee has not convened in the last three months, indicating the complexities involved in the deliberations.

Digital Stalemate

Tech Giants Lobbying for Caution

Influential figures within the government have reportedly received strong representations from major tech companies, urging caution in crafting the Digital Competition Law. The concern centers around potential adverse impacts on innovation and overall economic growth, prompting the need for a balanced approach that considers both regulatory needs and industry development.

Exploration of EU Model and Regulatory Obligations

The committee had been exploring the possibility of enacting legislation similar to the European Union’s Digital Marketplace Act. It aimed to establish criteria for identifying systematically important intermediaries and prevent them from exploiting data for their advantage. The proposed law also considered imposing at least 10 obligations, including interoperability and anti-steering measures, on tech companies.

Despite these intentions, the current status of the committee’s progress indicates a complex landscape, with divergent opinions and the likelihood of a postponed decision on the Digital Competition Law in India.

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