The Indian School of Public Policy, in an outstanding student-driven initiative, has organised a two-day brainstorming seminar involving various law and public policy schools on the matter of a Digital Competition Act for India. Participating today in the associated panel discussion on “Innovation, Digital Economy, and Competition Concerns: What is the Better Trade-off for India?”
I was honoured to be in the company of eminent fellow panellists, including two dear former colleagues from the Competition Commission of India CCI, Mr Augustine Peter (earlier Member CCI) and Sachin Goyal (currently, Jt Director, CCI). Also with me was a bright young competition lawyer Ms Moudhumita Bose from P&A Law Offices, and last but not least, Professor K.K. Ladha whose erudite simplicity may be why he is a beloved faculty member at ISPP! We had a rather passionate debate on the pros and cons of ex-ante regulation.
The discussion was expertly steered by our moderator Shiksha Dahiya. My take is that we need both:
- Well-considered, proportionate, asymmetric ex-ante rules that apply to gatekeepers only and check conduct that impedes competition and innovation; rules that encourage transparency and fairness, and well-functioning digital markets and
- A strong competition law regime with a well-equipped and empowered competition regulator. Ultimately it is in the interest of even the largest of players to read the tea leaves and shed behaviour contrary to healthy competition. The old business models have been examined and found to be harmful globally. We need instead different business models that promote good innovation, protect consumers and citizens and thus, foster continued uptake and consumer trust in digital goods and services.
- Regulators must create conditions for good innovation to arise and thrive, whether it emanates from Big Tech or tiny Start-Ups. A balanced approach is the need of the hour, but a regulatory shake-up is definitely in order.