More than a year after ordering a detailed probe into alleged cartelisation in the market for flashlights, anti-trust regulator CCI has closed the case saying there is no contravention of competition law by the entities that were under the scanner.
The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has concluded that there is no violation of norms by four entities -- Eveready Industries India Ltd (Opposition Party-1), Panasonic Energy India Co Ltd (OP-2), Indo National Ltd (OP-3) and Association of Indian Dry Cell Manufacturers (OP-5).
The matter was taken up by the watchdog suo-motu following applications filed by Eveready Industries and Panasonic Energy India under lesser penalty regulations of the Competition Act. After a prima-facie view of contravention, the CCI ordered a detailed probe by its investigation arm Director General (DG) into the matter on February 8, 2017.
In a 37-page order, the watchdog said though there is evidence of exchange of production/ sales data, draft press release and price information amongst the OPs indicating possibility of collusion, "there is hardly any evidence to show that such activities of OP-1, OP-2 and OP-3 did in fact result in determining the prices of flashlights".
"Even OP-1, who disclosed the alleged anti-competitive behaviour of the OPs in the instant case, expressed inability during the course of hearing to provide any definite evidence of increase in prices of flashlights due the conduct of the OPs," the order, dated November 6, said.
In the absence of sufficient cogent evidence, the regulator said it cannot be concluded that OP-1, OP-2, OP-3 and OP-5 formed a cartel and acted in a concerted manner to directly or indirectly determine purchase or sale price of flashlights in violation of Competition Act provisions.
However, the DG, in its investigation report, had concluded that OP-1, OP-2, OP-3 and OP-5 had indulged in anti-competitive agreement/ conduct and concerted practices, in the domestic dry cell battery market of zinc carbon batteries during the period from May 20, 2009 to July 31, 2016.
The report, submitted on March 20, 2018, had also identified certain persons who allegedly played an active role in contravention of the competition norms.
With respect to Geep Industries (India) Pvt Ltd (OP-4), the DG said it was a member of Association of Indian Dry Cell Manufacturers (AIDCM) and used to provide monthly data to the association till mid-2012.
"However, once it ceased to be a member of AIDCM, it discontinued the practice. The DG has not found any evidence that OP-4 indulged in any concerted/ strategic decision to raise price of flashlights as was done by other OPs.
"Further, no other evidence of sharing of commercially sensitive information with regard to flashlights could be found against OP-4," the order said.
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