The market regulator, Competition Commission of India and sector regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India should not engage in a standoff on tariff issues but resolve their differences through talks, which can be moderated by the Prime Minister’s Office.
In a statement released here today, Pradeep S Mehta, a globally renowned competition expert and Secretary General of CUTS International, a 33 year old public policy research and advocacy group, said that such types of turf and overlap issues between CCI and sector regulators are not healthy for regulating the market.
“After all, the CCI is an economy wide regulator to curb market malpractices while the TRAI is a sector regulator to ensure orderly growth and maintainance of service standards in the telecom and broadcasting sectors in the country” said Mr Mehta.
Mehta added that the Competition Act, 2002 recognises the duty of the CCI to curb anti-competitive practices in all economic sectors, such overlap issues and requires mutual, but voluntary, consultation with the sector regulator on issues relating to competition.
On the other hand, the TRAI Act recognises the jurisdiction of the competition authority on competition issues.
Mehta said that the Ministry of Corporate Affairs’s high powered Committee on National Competition Policy and Allied Matters had recommended in 2011 that the Competition Act be amended to inter alia provide for mandatory consultation between the CCI and sector regulator on overlap issues.
“Alas, the recommendations are yet to see the light of the day”, said Mehta.
CUTS has pleaded with the Government to pass the amendments as soon as possible, because these turf issues can be counterproductive and harmful for the economy”.
For example, the Delhi High Court had stayed enquiry by CCI in a complaint on aviation fuel cartel under the premise that the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board has the jurisdiction, because the PNGRB Act provides for the Board’s duty to promote competition and consumer protection.
“Promotion of competition is everyone’s duty but checking anticompetitive practices is the sole duty of CCI”, said Mehta. “On consumer protection too, disputes are maintainable under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986”.
The European Union member states too have resolved the overlap issues by providing for mandatory consultationbetween the competition authority and sector regulators under both the competition law and sector regulatory laws. “Such a proposal is pending in India since 2011 and needs to be adopted”.
This approach has been adopted by several other developing countries also and is required in India too.