Already facing flak for violating principles of net neutrality, dominant telecom operators could also draw the ire of Competition Commission of India (CCI). The competition regulator is examining concerns of alleged anti-competitive practices arising from launch of data access plans allowing companies to offer apps for free, a practice that effectively means the app maker will pay for the customer's free usage to the operator.
Critics say such exclusive partnerships by telecom companies with e-commerce players, social media apps and others will not only compel users to sign up for restrictive data plans but also kill any new start-ups that don't have enough resources to tie-up with big telecom companies. "We are examining competition concerns that have come up in the light of ongoing debate on net neutrality and telecom companies providing uneven data access to users. We'll need market evidence to conclude the matter," a top CCI official said. The matter was discussed in detail on Wednesday by the commission.
The commission could intervene on its own if any dominant player erected an artificial barrier to prevent others from entering the market, the official added. Such data platforms, according to some industry experts, violate net neutrality as they offer access to some apps and not equally to all apps.
Dismissing the complaint by Mega Cabs against ANI Technologies, which operates Ola cabs, Competition Commission said the allegations made are "opposed to the basic tenets of competition law".
"Inability of the existing players or new entrants to match the innovative technology or app developed by any player or the model created for operating in a particular industry cannot be said to be creating entry barriers in itself," the order, dated February 9, said.
Competition Commission of India (CCI) said the route of venture funding, with which the Ola is bearing the costs of giving incentives to its drivers and discounts to the consumers are not exclusively available to it.