The tussle over Kishore Biyani’s Future Retail continues to unfold, with the advantage shifting from one side to the other in an instant. This time, it is US e-commerce behemoth Amazon which got the short end of the stick after the Competition Commission of India (CCI) accused it of hiding facts and making false submissions regarding its involvement in Future Retail when it had sought the approval of the CCI to invest back in 2019.
The dispute, which includes over 1,500 supermarkets and other outlets, arose when Future Group decided to sell its retail assets to Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries. Amazon had argued that a con-complete clause in the 2019 deal prevented Future Group from selling Future Retail to Reliance. Amazon has a stake of 49% in Future Coupons, the promoter entity of Future Retail. While the initial advantage lay with Amazon as the Delhi HC ordered all parties to maintain the status quo, tides changed when the stay on the deal was lifted. However, the tables were turned the Delhi High Court upheld the Singapore Arbitrator’s Emergency Award (EA) order.
At present, the case is before the Supreme Court and will be heard again on July 27.
Back in 2019, Amazon did not mention its “strategic interest” since it contested that the deal with Future Coupons gave it special rights over Future Retail.
The CCI, India’s antitrust regulator, said that it had sent a letter to Amazon on June 4 noting that “the representations and conduct of Amazon before the Commission amounts to misrepresentation, making false statement and suppression or/and concealment of material facts.” “Such interest and the purpose of the combination…was not disclosed to the Commission despite specific requirements,” the letter read.
It added that Amazon refuted its own statement that the agreement between two Future Group entities signed before the deal in 2019 was an “integrated part of the transaction,” while it had claimed initially that it had nothing to do with the agreement.
The CCI asked the e-commerce powerhouse who no action should be taken against it and the company should not be penalized for providing false information.
Amazon said that it was confident to address the concerns of the antitrust agency.
According to the approval order in 2019, the decision of the CCI would be revoked if the information provided was found to be incorrect. Such seems to be the case, and if the approval is revoked, then the going will only get tougher for Amazon in one of its largest markets. Amazon is already in dire straits as its business was restricted in India with the ban of flash sales and the mandatory appointment of a Chief Compliance Officer, and the CCI was given the green light to resume its antitrust probe against the e-commerce giant.