Competition Commission of India: Individual Consumer Dispute can’t be Treated as Competition Concern


August 07, 2018

In this recent case, taken up by the Competition watchdog –  The Competition Commission of India has reiterated that an individual consumer dispute cannot be treated as a competition concern under the Competition Act. The Commission also clarified the scope of the Competition Act i.e. to curb the anti-competitive practices.

Case name: Shri Rajendra Agarwal v. Shoppers Stop Limited

In this case, the Informant alleged contravention of provisions of Section 3 of the Competition Act, 2002 (OP) by Shoppers Stop. According to the informant, he had made purchase of item worth Rs. 6495 from OP and subsequently was offered two discount coupons of Rs. 500 each by the OP, which could be redeemed on a subsequent purchase.

However, the Informant alleged that on a subsequent purchase of Rs. 1404/- he was not allowed to redeem the coupon on the ground that such coupons could be redeemed only on subsequent purchase of atleast of Rs. 4000.

Aggrieved by the aforesaid, the Informant prayed the Competition Commission of India  to direct the OP to pay an amount equal to the value of discount coupons as compensation with an apology letter from the chief executive and an assurance to stop re-occurrence of such incidents.

The Commission was of the view that the said dispute between the Informant and the OP regarding non redemption of discount coupons was an individual consumer dispute rather than a matter of competition concern and the same also does not cause any adverse effect on competition.

While highlighting cases when individual consumer disputes have been misunderstood as a Competition concern, the Commission pointed out that the scope of the Competition Act is primarily aimed to curb the anti-competitive practices having adverse effect on competition and to promote and sustain competition in the relevant markets in India. Whereas the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 is aimed to protect the interest of individual consumers against the unfair practices being widely prevalent in the market.

Reference was also made to the case of Subhash Yadav vs. Force Limited and Ors., wherein the Competition Commission of India opined the purpose of Competition Act is to protect and promote fair competition in the markets in India. However, for the protection of individual consumer interest, there is another statute already in existence known as Consumer Protection Act, 1986, which mainly deals with protection of consumer interest against the deficiencies in services or goods being purchased by the consumers from the sellers.

In view of the aforesaid observations, the Commission concluded that the present dispute between the Informant and the OP is a consumer dispute and does not raise any competition concern and accordingly closed the case.

The Commission’s order can be accessed here.

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