Even as the Union government has announced to withdraw the controversial Data Protection Bill 2019, the Centre is gearing up to overhaul its competition law to check the BigTech companies.
According to top sources, the new antitrust law is likely to be loaded with more powers so that global technology companies will have to seek the country’s antitrust approval for many overseas mergers and acquisitions. The ambitious move by the government looks to gain the kind of influence over Big Tech that Europe and China have.
All deals where the transaction value exceeds 20 billion rupees ($252 million) would require permission of India’s antitrust regulator if the firms have “substantial business operations in India,” according to a draft bill seen by Bloomberg News. The bill could be presented to parliament as early as Friday, according to a person with knowledge of the matter who confirmed the document’s contents.
The government will bring in rules defining “substantial business operations” once the amendments are approved, the person added. A spokesperson for the corporate affairs ministry did not respond to calls seeking comment. Current antitrust rules allow the regulator to examine deals based on asset size and turnover of the companies involved, but the amended law will, for the first time, allow the competition commission to scrutinize transactions based on their value.
The proposals stem from India’s view that it should have a say on deals such as Meta’s 2014 takeover of WhatsApp, given the messaging app’s large Indian user base. With 834 million internet users and the consumer digital economy expected to become a $800 billion market by 2030, the government has been working on regulations to tighten oversight.