India enacted a new competition law, the Competition Act 2002, to replace the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices (MRTP) Act 1969. Subsequently, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) was established in October 2003 under the Competition Act.

The new Act essentially focuses on four core areas:

  • Anti-competitive agreements
  • Abuse of dominance
  • Combinations regulation
  • Competition advocacy

Anti-competitive agreements could be either horizontal or vertical in nature and have the potential of restricting competition. A particularly pernicious type of anti-competitive agreement is cartel.

Cartels are difficult to unearth. More often than not, cartels do not have formal or written agreements. Essentially, they operate on oral understandings. Consequently, proving a cartel or cartelisation is beset with practical difficulties and in particular, absence of evidence. Despite this factual handicap, the MRTP Commission did try some cartel cases, and indeed proved successful in establishing some of these. Nevertheless, the experience of MRTPC cannot be considered to be satisfactory in this regard. It would, therefore, be worthwhile to study cartel cases tried in some other jurisdictions to draw learnings for the new competition authority so that it is better equipped to deal with cartel cases.

It is in this context that CUTS undertook a project entitled “Study of Cartel Case Laws in Select Jurisdictions: Learnings for the CCI”.