The Competition Commission of India (CCI) had in February this year passed an order directing its Director General to investigate the modalities adopted by the accounting body in conducting its Continuing Professional Education (CPE) scheme.
The complaint lodged by Arun Anandagiri, a qualified chartered accountant, had alleged that the institute was abusing its dominant position by imposing unfair and discriminatory conditions with regard to its CPE scheme.
Meanwhile, the court has stayed the order of the competition watchdog after considering the arguments made by the institute that it cannot be subjected to CCI's jurisdiction under the Competition Act, when it is discharging its regulatory and statutory functions under the Chartered Accountants Act. Further, an appeal filed by CCI against the stay order has also been dismissed by a division bench of the High Court.
Currently, practicing Chartered Accountants (CA) have to annually attain 20 hours of structured CPE credits and 10 hours of un-structured CPE credits. CAs not holding certificate of practice, have to attain 15 hours of unstructured CPE credits annually. Structured CPE credits can be attained by attending seminar, conferences, workshops organized by any of the ICAI organs, or being a faculty at the seminar organized by ICAI organs or by writing an article for the ICAI Journal. The unstructured CPE credits can be obtained by reading professional journals, business literature, attending internal training programs of CA firms with 7 or more partners, etc. Such CPE seminars are only conducted by Program Organising Units (POUs) recognised by ICAI. Anandagiri had argued that the council that oversees CPE activities of all POUs had the authority to grant recognition to any other unit for conducting CPE seminars, however not a single external organization had been accorded recognition for the same.
There seems to be force in the allegations of the informant that the restriction put in by ICAI in not allowing any other organization to conduct the CPE seminars for CPE credits, created an entry barrier for the other players in the relevant market...The members of ICAI have no option, but to attend the seminars organized by it (whatever be the quality of seminars) to get the requisite CPE credits. The restriction put on by ICAI do not meet the objectives sought to be achieved by the policy. There are hundreds of seminars and conferences organized every month across India by reputed chambers of commerce like CCI, FICCI, ASSOCHAM, NASSCOM, etc. However, these seminars/conferences are not recognised by the institute for CPE credits, CCI had observed.