The Competition Commission of India (CCI) today organized the Seventh National Conference on Economics of Competition Law in virtual mode. Mr Neelkanth Mishra Member, Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister, was the Keynote Speaker at the Conference. Mr Ashok Kumar Gupta, Chairperson, CCI, delivered the Special Address at the Inaugural Session and Dr Sangeeta Verma, Member, CCI opened the Conference with her opening remarks.
The Keynote Address by Mr Neelkanth Mishra focused on the emergence of technology giants and the challenges and novel questions it poses for regulation and regulators. Mr Mishra, in his address, discussed the key technological and economic factors such as, network effects, scale economies, synergies between intangible assets within technology ecosystems etc. that give rise to concentration of market power in digital markets. Elucidating the features and metrics that are relevant in digital markets distinguishing them from traditional markets, he referred to the importance of investments in intangible assets such as brands, software, patents etc., financing aspects such as the predominance of venture capital funds and private equity funding. While technology sectors, owing to their innate features may be susceptible to winner-take-all market structures, they also hold enormous potential to drive innovation, facilitate new business models and help remove inefficiencies in the value chain, he pointed out. The question that merits attention in this context is whether concentration of capital and market power, size and scale of the technology giants, by themselves, be seen as a threat to competition, he said. He concluded by presenting a set of questions for regulators to ponder over so that the regulatory approach remains informed of the complexities of digital markets, entailing deep-rooted assessment, global collaboration and cautious reaction.
In his Special Address, Mr Ashok Kumar Gupta outlined the role of economics in unravelling the intricacies of markets, in understanding the state of competition and what aids, abets or hinders it. The architecture of the Competition Act, 2002 is such that adjudication entails appreciation of the economics of markets and the impugned conduct, he said. Referring to the growing emphasis placed by the Commission on market studies, Mr Gupta mentioned that the application of this complex economic legislation could only be effective when it appropriately accounted for market specificities. Given the inherently dynamic nature of markets especially the new age markets, the Commission engages proactively with stakeholders through its Market Studies and Stakeholder consultations. The learnings from these market studies allow the Commission to appreciate various strategic market interactions in oligopolistic markets and going forward the Commission proposes to undertake several market studies for the purpose of enforcement and advocacy, he added.
In her opening remarks, Dr Sangeeta Verma talked about the feedback loop between antitrust research and enforcement. She stressed on the need for the evolving academic discourse and the shifts in economic understanding to reflect in antitrust enforcement. On the other hand, a growing body of antitrust case law with rigorous economic analyses could stimulate follow-on research, she mentioned. For accurate yet speedy investigation and disposal of cases, she said, it was important that parties, both in antitrust and combination matters, made their submissions and arguments giving due regard to the economic framework that applies to the industry concerned.
The Conference Plenary was on ‘Reforms and Deepening of Markets’. Mr Amitabh Kant, Chief Executive Officer, NITI Aayog, Mr Tuhin Kanta Pandey, Secretary, Department of Investment and Public Asset Management, Ministry of Finance, Government of India, Dr M. S. Sahoo, Distinguished Professor, National Law University, Delhi and Dr Nachiket Mor, Visiting Scientist, The Banyan Academy of Leadership in Mental Health and Senior Research Fellow, IIIT Bangalore were the distinguished panellists at the Plenary. The Plenary was moderated by Ms Latha Venkatesh, Executive Editor, CNBC TV18.
The Conference also included two technical sessions on Competition and Regulation: Empirical Inquiries; and Competition Law and Policy: Issues and Approaches, where researchers presented papers on economics of competition law. The technical sessions were chaired by Dr Pami Dua, Director, Delhi School of Economics and Dr Aditya Bhattacharjea, Senior Professor, Delhi School of Economics.