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Competition Commission India levying anti-competitive photocopying charges?

Competition law
Competition law

Practitioners have criticised the Competition Commission of India (CCI) for charging Rs 50 per page for photocopying records of CCI proceedings as an abuse of the body's dominant position.

A CCI source confirmed that the regulator charges Rs 50 per page for photocopies of documents held by it, which are often required by parties engaged in proceedings before it.

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) by contrast charges only Rs 2 per photocopied page of its documents – 25 times less than the competition regulator.

One competition lawyer mused that the photocopying charges were unreasonably high and the pricing was effectively unfair and an abuse of the CCI's dominant position in providing certain documents.

Another competition specialist explained that CCI regulation 50 provided for copying charges of Rs 50 per page. "There is a statutory backing to the charges and it is not arbitrary. But I agree that […] prima facie the copying charges appear to be high and CCI should consider revising them by amending the relevant regulations."

"Somebody can approach the CCI Chairman and ask for a review," he suggested as a possible solution. "The CCI under Section 64 of the Competition Act has powers to make regulations and to amend them also from time to time."

He noted that the CCI had in the past amended the general regulations governing "fees" for filing information under sections 3 and 4 of the Act, reducing those charges from Rs 50,000 to Rs 5,000 in the case of individuals.

One law firm competition practitioner said that it was unfair to criticise the CCI for these charges, explaining that the regulations had been under consultation in the public domain for more than a year and interested parties would have been given the chance to air their views.

"Besides, the Regulations, before being adopted by the CCI have been approved by the appropriate authorities," he added. "However, aggrieved parties may approach the CCI afresh suggesting reasons for CCI’s consideration and amendment thereof, if any"

Regulation 50 states that: "(1) A party to the proceedings, on application, may be allowed inspection of records relating to its case by the Secretary, on such conditions as may be specified, on payment of rupees one thousand per day per case. (2) Copying charges for the parties to the proceedings shall be rupees fifty per page."

Photocopying charges in more complex cases and investigations could therefore run into Rs 1 lakh for 2,000 copied pages.

One of the guiding principles of the CCI is "to minimize cost of compliance by enterprises, and cost of enforcement by Commission".

The CCI was unavailable for an official comment.

Photo by Mark Strozier

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