NCLAT | AIOVA’s appeal against CCI Order exonerating Flipkart and Amazon of antitrust violation allegations to be heard on 30th July

National Company Appellate Tribunal: A Bench of Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya, Chairperson and Justice A.I.S Cheema, Member (Judicial) and Kanthi Narahari, Member (Technical) admitted the appeal filed by the All India Online Vendors Association (“AIOVA”) against the order of the Competition Commission of India, dated 6-11-2018, whereby it held that no case of contravention of the provisions of Section 4 (abuse of dominant position) of the Competition Act, 2002 was made out against Flipkart and Amazon.

AIOVA’s case

AIOVA — company registered under the Companies Act, 2013 — is a group of more than 2000 sellers, selling on e-commerce marketplaces such as Flipkart, Amazon, Snapdeal, etc. It informed the CCI regarding abuse of dominant position by Flipkart alleging that small vendors have become allies of the big vendors and suppliers to leading sellers such as Cloudtail., WS Retail, etc. on the Flipkart and Amazon platforms, rather than selling directly to consumers through the online e-commerce marketplace sites. Further, it was apprehended that unfair trade practices were being carried and corporate veil on it was required to be lifted to assess the economic nexus and the wrongdoings being committed.

CCI’s Order

The Commission vide its order dated 6-11-2018, found no contravention of the provisions of Section 4 by Flipkart. Holding that the relevant market in the instant case may be defined as “services provided by online marketplace platforms for selling goods in India”, the Commission further held that “looking at the present market construct and structure of online marketplace platforms market in India, it does not appear that any one player in the market is commanding any dominant position at this stage of evolution of market.”

Finding that Flipkart was not a dominant player in the “relevant market”, it was held that the question of abuse of dominant position did not arise. Furthermore, it was held that the information provided by AIOVA was not sufficient to substantiate the allegations against Flipkart. Though the information was filed against Flipkart, the Commission held a conference with Amazon as well as it is also a key player in the relevant market. On the same reasoning, the Commission held that no contravention of the provisions of Section 4 could be said to be made out against either Flipkart or Amazon.

Appeal before NCLAT

Aggrieved by the decision passed by the CCI, filed a company appeal before the NCLAT challenging the same. Chanakya Basa along with Nidhi Khanna, Advocates, appearing for AIOVA argued on the errors in the impugned order. Per contra, Senior Advocate Amit Sibal is representing the opposite party along with Rajshekhar Rao, Yaman Verma, Sonali Charak and Neetu Ahlawat, Advocates.

The Appellate Tribunal has admitted the appeal for hearing. The respondents have been given 10-days time to file an affidavit in reply. The appeal is further posted for hearing on 30-07-2019.[All India Online Vendors Assn. v. CCI, Company Appeal (AT) No. 16 of 2019, decided on 15-05-2019]

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