The Bombay High Court has asked the Competition Commission of India (CCI) not to take any coercive action against Star India, Disney India and Asianet Star Communications in a matter related to alleged abuse of dominant position, until the court decides on the issue of jurisdiction.
The CCI had ordered detailed investigation against Star India, Asianet Star Communications Pvt Ltd (Asianet) and Disney Broadcasting India Ltd (Disney) in a case related to alleged abuse of dominant position.
The probe was ordered on the basis of information filed by Asianet Digital Network Private Limited (ADNPL), an MSO operating in Kerala, Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
According to the complaint, Star India was providing a bouquet of channels to its competitors at lesser prices resulting into denial of market access and also amounting to unfair and discriminatory pricing. The complainant had alleged that Star was offering additional discounts to select multi system operators (MSOs) and the main competitor of Asianet Digital Network in Kerala viz. KCCL (Kerala Communicators Cable Ltd).
The CCI prima facie had found a case of abuse of dominance, discrimination, denial of market access. CCI’s order is predicated upon a finding that Star India is circumventing TRAI’s New Regulatory Framework by entering into marketing agreements for offering additional discounts beyond the prescribed cap to KCCL, placing MSOs such as Asianet Digital Network at a huge disadvantage.
CCI found Star India dominant owing to its exclusive content thus making access to its TV channels indispensable for MSO, significant market share, size and economic resources and countervailing power.
Star India and Disney had filed individual writs challenging the CCI order directing investigation on the grounds that CCI lacks subject matter jurisdiction as the issue of circumvention of TRAI’s framework and discriminatory pricing of TV channels falls within the purview of TRAI. The writs came up for consideration before the Bombay HC on Thursday.
The Bombay HC, while expressing its inability to hear the matter in detail, passed an interim order asking CCI not to take any coercive action against Star India, Disney and Asianet.
The interim order also asks the Director General (Investigation) not to file its report and CCI not to undertake any adjudication until the High Court decides the issue of jurisdiction.
"CCI may request Star India, Asianet Star and Disney to provide information/documents limited to the Marketing Agreements executed with KCCL. The limited information so provided by Star, Asianet and Disney, on without prejudice basis, is to be kept confidential and not to be shared with ADNPL (Complainant)," the interim order says.
The matter has been listed for hearing on June 8, and during this time CCI and ADNPL have been directed to file their respective replies.