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CCI won’t act against Star India till 26 September

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) on Friday told the Kerala high court that it would not take any coercive action against broadcaster Star India and its affiliates in a matter of alleged price discrimination by the broadcaster.

The additional solicitor general (ASG), on behalf of CCI, informed the court that its undertaking submitted on 19 September regarding not taking any coercive action against the broadcasters would continue till 26 September. The bench accepted the undertaking and adjourned the matter for hearing on 26 September.

The matter pertains to the three broadcasting companies — Asianet Star Communications Pvt. Ltd, Star India Pvt. Ltd and Disney Broadcasting (India) Pvt. Ltd. They approached the Bombay high court against a 28 February order of the CCI that ordered an investigation under section 26(1) of the Competition Act 2002.

Section 26 (1) states that on receipt of a complaint or a reference from the Central government or a state government or statutory authority or on its own knowledge or information, under section 19, if the Commission believes that there is a prima facie case, it can direct the director-general to investigate the matter.

Last week, the Bombay high court refused to intervene in the matter, challenging the antitrust watchdog’s investigation on the grounds of territorial jurisdiction.

However, it held that its previous order of 6 April would continue to remain in effect for additional 10 days. Bombay High court’s Justice G.S. Patel, on 6 April, directed the CCI not to take any ‘coercive’ action against the media firms until further orders.

Star India and its affiliates–Asianet Star Communications and Disney Broadcasting (India), on 19 September, filed a writ petition before the Kerala High court contesting the CCI’s investigation.

The CCI order of February was based on a complaint filed by Asianet Digital Network Pvt. Ltd (ADNPL), a distributor of TV digital services in Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

ADNPL claimed before the court that the three broadcasters had abused their position of dominance in the market by providing significant discounts through cashback to rival Kerala Communicators Cables Ltd.

CCI also observed that the alleged price discrimination among different multisystem operators of Star India resulted in a significant loss in the consumer base of the ADNPL. As a result, on 28 February, CCI ordered an investigation into the matter.

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