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CCI orders probe against Star India for alleged abuse of dominant position

The Competition Commission has directed its investigation arm to initiate a probe into alleged abuse of dominant position by Star India Pvt Ltd. The order came on a complaint filed by Asianet Digital Network (P) Ltd against Star India, Disney Broadcasting (India) Ltd and Asianet Star Communications Pvt Ltd.

According to the complaint, Star India was providing a bouquet of channels to the competitor of the informant at lesser prices resulting in denial of market access and also amounting to unfair/discriminatory pricing. It chose an indirect way to provide these discounts to circumvent the New Regulatory Framework of TRAI by way of promotion and advertisement payments to informant’s competitor through high valued advertising deals, the complaint alleged.

“Therefore, on the basis of market share, dependence of consumers, size and resources of the enterprise (being part of global media conglomerate), vertical integration of the enterprise and countervailing power, the Commission is of prima facie view that OP-1 enjoy a position of dominance in the relevant market delineated supra,” the Commission noted.

The relevant market prima facie appears to be “market for provision of broadcasting services in the State of Kerala”, the regulator said. OP-1 refers to Star India.

The alleged discriminatory conduct of price discrimination between different multi-system operators of Star India has resulted in significant loss in the consumer base of the Informant and therefore prima facie appears to be in violation of the provisions of Section 4 of the Competition Act, due to discriminatory pricing and denial of market access, the regulator noted.

Section 4 pertains to abuse of dominant position.

“Accordingly, the Commission directs the Director General (DG) to cause an investigation to be made into the matter and submit an investigation report within a period of 60 days from the date of receipt of this order,” the Competition Commission of India said in an order dated February 28.

It further said that nothing in this order shall be tantamount to a final expression of opinion on the merits of the case, and the DG shall conduct the investigation without being swayed by the observations.

Separately, the regulator has dismissed a plea of interim relief filed by the informant. PTI

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