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Industry bodies voice concerns over draft digital competition bill to MeitY

Domestic industry stakeholders on Tuesday pitched for a comprehensive legal framework to protect them from any anti-competitive conduct of Big Tech in the booming digital markets.

At a consultative meeting convened by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), various industry segments, however, came up with mixed views on whether the proposed Digital Competition Bill should encompass an EU-like ex-ante framework to regulate the large systemically important digital players.

Tuesday’s meeting was chaired by MeitY Secretary S Krishnan and attended by representatives of Competition Commission of India (CCI) and Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA).

MeitY is likely to prepare a note following today’s deliberations and send it to MCA for further action, sources said.

Industry associations who were part of the meeting include Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports, CCAOI, Digital News Publishers Association (DNPA),Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF). Interestingly, none of the Big Tech representatives attended the meeting.

Meeting on Wednesday
Meanwhile, MeitY will, on Wednesday, hold one more round of discussions with various think tanks on the draft Digital Competition Bill, sources said.

Tuesday’s meeting assumes significance as it had been convened at the behest of Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) with several Startups approaching the PMO for strong legal framework to address the anti-competitive conduct of Big Tech.

Big Tech are opposed to introduction of any ex-ante framework under DCB as it could have potential negative effect on innovation and investments. However, start-up community largely is in favour of DCB as it will create a level playing field for them in the digital ecosystem.

Prateek Jain, Associate Director-Startup and Alliances, ADIF, said the proposed Digital Competition Law is a visionary step that will cement India’s position as a global leader in the digital economy.

“As the premier policy think tank for digital start-ups in India, ADIF, wholeheartedly welcomes this forward-looking legislation that strikes the right balance between promoting innovation and ensuring fair competition,” he said.

The government’s inclusive approach, involving extensive consultations with stakeholders, ensures the law addresses the unique challenges faced by businesses across the digital ecosystem.

“We laud this collaborative effort to shape a regulatory landscape that unlocks India’s entrepreneurial potential. This robust framework will empower homegrown innovators, safeguard consumer interests, and foster an environment conducive to sustainable growth,” Jain said.

The digital revolution must thrive on fair play and equal opportunities for all players.

“We remain committed partners in this journey, working alongside policymakers to nurture an ecosystem driven by innovation, fair competition and inclusive progress for the benefit of all Indians,” he added.

Digital news publishers
Meanwhile, Digital news publishers, who favour an ex-ante approach to regulation of digital markets, are aggrieved as the Digital Competition Bill is silent on the much-awaited Bargaining Guidelines or Code that would give them a better negotiating handle with Big Tech and ensure fair share of revenues from digital advertising.

The Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA), which was the nodal ministry driving the deliberations on DCL and had set up 16-member CDCL, had fixed May 15 as the last date for sending comments on the report of Committee on Digital Competition CDCL and the draft Bill prepared by this committee.

DCB has proposed an ex-ante law for digital markets to regulate enterprises that have a significant presence in India. The ex ante measures in form of DCB was intended to complement the ex-post framework under the Competition Act 2002.

The MCA is understood to have received mixed views on the CDCL and draft DCB from players in the digital sector.

India’s digital economy is expected to touch $1-trillion mark by 2027-28, according to Government estimates.

Indications are that the Centre will not look to introduce DCB in the upcoming Parliament session. The Hindu Businessline

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