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Antitrust regulator CCI accuses Amazon of concealing facts in deal for Future Group unit

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NEW DELHI: India’s antitrust regulator has charged Amazon.com Inc of hiding facts and making false presentations when seeking approval for a 2019 investment in a Future group unit, showed a letter to the US e-commerce giant seen by Reuters.
The letter complicates Amazon’s bitter legal battle with Future Group over the Indian company’s decision to sell its retail assets to Dependency Industries – a matter that is now before the Supreme Court of India.
Amazon has argued that the terms agreed in its 2019 deal to pay $ 192 million for a 49% stake in Future’s gift voucher unit prevent its parent, Future Group, from selling its products. Future Retail Ltd business to Reliance.
In the June 4 letter, the Competition Commission of India (ITC) said that Amazon concealed factual aspects of the transaction by not disclosing its strategic interest in Future Retail when it sought approval for the 2019 deal.
“Amazon’s representations and conduct before the Commission amount to misrepresentation, making false statements, and suppression or concealment of material facts,” the letter said. It also noted that its review of the submissions made had been prompted by a Future Group complaint.
In the four-page letter, a so-called ‘show notice of cause’, the ICC asked Amazon why it should not take action and sanction the company for providing false information.
Amazon has yet to respond, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter who declined to be identified as the letter has not been made public.
Amazon said in a statement to Reuters that it had received a letter, that it was committed to complying with Indian laws, and that it would provide its full cooperation to the ICC.
“We are confident that we will be able to address the concerns of the ICC,” he said.
Representatives for Future and the CCI did not respond to Reuters requests for comment.
Vaibhav Choukse, specialist in competition law and partner of J Sagar Associates, said it was rare for the ICC to issue such a notice and that if the ICC was not satisfied with Amazon’s response, it could result in a fine and even a review of the agreement.
“The ICC has extensive powers that include instructions to resubmit the application for approval and even revoke the approval in exceptional circumstances,” Choukse said.
The 2019 ICC approval order states that its decision “will be reversed if, at any time, the information provided” is incorrect.
Compared presentations
The dispute over Future Retail, which has more than 1,500 supermarkets and other outlets, is the most hostile flash point between Jeff Bezos’s Amazon and Reliance, led by India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, as they try to gain the upper hand to conquer the country. consumers.
Amazon also has a number of other challenges in India, a key growth market where it has committed $ 6.5 billion in investments, including a separate CCI investigation into alleged practices that small businesses say have harmed them.
In addition, it faces the prospect of more regulations that would restrict the sale of private labels and prohibit the US firm from allowing its affiliates to list products on its website.
CCI’s letter compared three sets of submissions Amazon made to it in 2019 with submissions made later to other legal forums, saying they were “contradictory.”
In particular, he said that Amazon had explained its interest in investing in Future’s coupon unit as one that would address gaps in India’s payments industry. But the letter said that Amazon had disclosed in other legal forums that the basis of its relationship with Future coupon it was certain special rights he got to Future Retail.
“Amazon has hidden its strategic interest” in Future Retail, the letter read, adding: “Such interest and the purpose of the combination … was not disclosed to the Commission despite specific requirements.”
The CCI also objected to a section of a filing in which Amazon had told the regulator that it had nothing to do with a particular legal agreement that two Future entities had signed with each other days before their 2019 agreement. But Amazon later claimed to an arbitrator that the deal was an “integrated part” of the transaction, the letter said.





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