Individuals suspected to be involved in cartelisation cases can now seek leniency, including complete waiver of penalty, by making required disclosures before the Competition Commission which has put in place the amended regulations. The applicants — both enterprises and individuals — seeking leniency have to also provide details about the estimated volume of business affected in India by the alleged cartelisation. Under the Competition Commission of India (CCI) norms, an applicant is eligible to get the penalty reduced up to 100 per cent in cartelisation cases if the entity makes a vital disclosure by submitting evidence of a cartel. The watchdog has powers to penalise entities indulging in unfair business practices. Now, individuals who are involved in a cartel can approach the regulator for leniency. Earlier, the leniency option was there for an enterprise but it was not clear whether that also extended to individuals. In this regard, the watchdog has made changes to the Competition Commission of India (Lesser Penalty) Amendment Regulations. About this amendment, law firm Chandhiok & Associates said the intention appears to be to develop a regime which encourages individuals to come forward and report such conduct. As per the Act, individuals can be penalised for anti- competitive practices.
In another significant change, applicants seeking leniency have to provide details of the volume of business affected in India by the alleged cartelisation. “This is perhaps a subtle indication of the CCI’s enforcement priority to concentrate on cartels which have a direct and substantial effect in the Indian market,” the law firm said. Among others, the latest amendments provide discretionary power to the CCI with respect to confidentiality. If the Director General feels it is necessary to disclose the information provided by the applicant, subject to certain conditions the same can be done even if the applicant does not give a confidentiality waiver in that regard. The DG — the investigation arm of the regulator — can disclose such information to another party provided it is approved by the CCI.
According to Chandhiok & Associates, the amendments are demonstrative of the CCI’s practical experience in dealing with leniency cases. “The amendments provide much needed clarity on issues such as status of individuals, benefit of reduction to more than one applicant…,” it added.