Thursday, July 24, 2008
Posted by D. Daniel Sokol
Aditya Bhattacharjea of the University of Delhi - Delhi School of Economics has a forthcoming article on India's New Competition Law: A Comparative Assessment.
ABSTRACT: This paper critically examines India's new Competition Act. I begin by examining the working of its predecessor, the 1969 Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act. Earlier studies, as well as a survey of recent cases undertaken for this paper, show that most cases under that Act involved consumer complaints and contractual disputes unrelated to competition. Very few cartels were prosecuted, the development of a rule of reason for vertical agreements was hamstrung by the legislature, and merger review was terminated in 1991. Thereafter, judgments increasingly tried to enforce "fair" business conduct "in the public interest," often protecting competitors rather than competition. India thus has little relevant experience for the many technical economic criteria in the Competition Act. Although the new Act has several positive features, it is riddled with loopholes that might condone hard-core cartels, predatory pricing, and potentially anticompetitive cross-border mergers, while it also perpetuates the earlier tendency to penalize "unfair" behavior with no bearing on competition. I argue that several institutional limitations will also impair the Act's effectiveness and conclude with a plea for capacity building and phased implementation.