Pune, 24 Sep, 2020: Symbiosis Law School, Pune (SLS-P), a constituent of Symbiosis International (Deemed University) organised a Webinar on Competition Law under the CCI Advocacy Programme on September 22, 2020. The webinar was held on the virtual platform, Microsoft Teams at 2:30 PM IST on the topic “Regulator’s Response to Cartelization in the Post-COVID-19 Economy”. The event was compered by Prof. Semanti Choudhury, Assistant Professor, Symbiosis Law School, Pune, who warmly welcomed the Resource Person, Dr, K. D. Singh the distinguished guest, Dr. Shashikala Gurpur, other faculty members and student attendees.
Dr. Shashikala Gurpur, Fulbright Scholar, Director, Symbiosis Law School, Pune, Dean, Faculty of Law, SIU, delivered the Welcome Address to the student viewers in which she heartily greeted the distinguished speaker, Dr. K.D. Singh and all student attendees. Dr. Gurpur commenced her address by extending a warm welcome to the distinguished resource person, and expressed delight over the great learning opportunity for the students in attendance. Dr. Gurpur proceeded to comment upon the increasing interest of the law students in the area of Competition Law and extolled the role played by the CCI in developing this discipline and furthering the interaction between multiple jurisdictions. Dr. Gurpur went on to thank Dr. K.D. Singh for accepting SLS-Pune’s invitation and expressed that this webinar would be the beginning of a fruitful collaboration between Symbiosis Law School Pune and the CCI. Subsequently, Dr. Shashikala Gurpur introduced the esteemed guest, Dr. K. D. Singh and invited him to deliver his address.
Following his introduction, Dr. K.D. Singh, Joint Director-Law, Competition Commission of India (CCI), took centre stage to deliver the lecture. Dr. Singh began by alluding to the contemporary importance of Competition Law in India. Further, he detailed the process of how regulators have responded to cartelization in the COVID pandemic and the role played by CCI in restricting anti-competitive behaviour during this pandemic. Dr. Singh went on to address the unprecedented nature of the economic collapse caused by the pandemic and advocated fervently for economic restructuring and the mobilisation of the economy to support the pharmaceutical industry and essential health services. He elaborated upon the stance of the CCI on Competition Law in times of the Pandemic, which he described as a “carrots and stick approach”, i.e. allowing flexibility in regulations for the time being, but guaranteeing that any anti-competitive behaviour undertaken now will not be tolerated after the COVID crisis blows over.
Dr. Singh proceeded to analyse the measures taken in countries such as the USA, UK and Australia as well as in regions such as the EU. Using UK as a prime example, Dr. Singh spoke in-depth about the relaxation of stringent conditions in order to allow minimal strain on supply chains. He discussed the constitution of COVID Taskforce to monitor competition and ensure consumer protection, among other measures. He further mentioned that the EU also released a similar framework on the basis of tailored conditions under which firms are eligible for protection under competition law and that the US took measures geared towards healthcare, based on models implemented in post-hurricane circumstances. He then spoke about Competition Law in Australia, stating that Australia has allowed for collaboration in industries beyond medicine and supermarkets, with the caveat that companies do not attempt to increase their market positions or exploit the people.
He elaborated upon the policies to ensure balance between international business coordination and prevent anti-competitive and exploitative behaviour decreed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the International Competition Network (ICN), the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). He provided the example of the investigation on Amazon and eBay launched by the Italian Competition Agency for continued sale of defective products such as sanitizers and other safety products. Dr. Singh related the above information to the Indian scenario and listed the proactive measures proposed by the CCI in the ‘Advisory to Businesses in times of COVID-19’. This was done in furtherance of recognising the extraordinary situation and the need to ease regulations in public interest. In conclusion, Dr. Singh said,
“In a globalised economy, there is a rising need not only for businesses and industries to collaborate amongst each other but also for various competition authorities to do so, in order to ensure speedy economic recovery.”
Dr. Singh’s speech was followed by a Question and Answer session that was moderated by Professor Semanti, in which the student attendees posed questions to Dr. Singh. The students enquired about the role of CCI in addressing possible anti-competitive practices among pharmaceutical companies manufacturing and distributing COVID-19 Vaccine, the allegedly lenient approach taken by the CCI in tackling cartel-like behaviour in recent times and what circumstances constitute proportionate “anti-competitive behaviour” under the protection of Competition Act during post COVID economy. The above questions were answered promptly and eruditely by Dr. K.D. Singh. After an interactive discussion with the student viewers, the virtual lecture ended on a successful note as Dr. Bindu Ronald, Deputy Director, Symbiosis Law School, Pune, delivered the vote of thanks.