The Competition Commission of India (CCI) will meet Future Coupons Pvt Ltd (FCPL) and Amazon on January 4, 2022, in connection with the approval given to Amazon’s investment in FCPL. Future Coupon's lawyers received a communication dated November 15, 2021, from the CCI that after considering its application for a personal hearing, CCI has decided to hear Amazon.com and FCPL on January 4, 2022. This was disclosed by Future Retail in a stock exchange filing on Monday that it received a letter from Future Coupons, which is FRL’s promoter group entity, informing the same.
This comes a day after the independent directors of Future Retail wrote a second letter to the CCI submitting internal communications of Amazon accusing the e-commerce major of making deliberate misrepresentations to the commission while seeking approval to invest in Future Coupons in 2019 and that internal correspondences show Amazon’s aim was to obtain strategic rights in Future Retail, which would be a violation of FDI norms.
Future Coupons first filed a complaint with CCI in March 2021 alleging suppression of facts, post which CCI sent a showcause notice to Amazon as to why no action including a penalty in terms of Section 43A, 44 and 45 of the Act, be taken against Amazon. These sections of the competition act deal with non-furnishing and suppression of information.
According to CCI’s communication to FCPL, Amazon submitted its response on July 28, 2021, post which it heard Amazon on September 22, 2021, and then Amazon filed written submissions on October 5, 2021. "The Commission considered the matter in its meeting held on October 18, 2021, and decided to pass an appropriate order in due course," it noted.
Amazon submitted various documents to the CCI including the interim order of the Singapore arbitrator and as per the CCI communication, it requested the CCI to treat some of the documents as confidential to all other third parties.
Post this, in November, CCI said that it directed Amazon – based on an FCPL application -- the copies of its response and further related submissions and applications (including confidential versions) filed before CCI within three days of receipt of the direction of the Commission, post which FCPL may file its written submission, if any, within a week from receipt of the copies, with an advance copy to Amazon.
“Amazon may thereafter file its rejoinder thereto, if any, within a week from the receipt of the submission of FCPL, with an advance copy to FCPL. Since Amazon has claimed confidentiality qua third parties, FCPL shall maintain confidentiality over all the submissions and responses received pursuant to the directions of the Commission,” CCI added.
CCI’s communication to Future Coupons comes at a time when Future Retail’s independent directors have written two letters to CCI accusing Amazon of making misrepresentations to CCI while seeking approval for a Rs 1,500 crore investment it made in Future Coupons in August 2019. This deal was approved by CCI in November 2019.
This also comes amid a raging legal battle between Amazon and Future Retail over Future Retail’s deal with Reliance Retail to sell its retail and wholesale assets by way of a slump sale for Rs 24,713 crore in August 2020. Amazon moved SIAC in October 2020, which stalled the deal in an interim order. The legal battle since then has been ongoing with the Supreme Court in August 2021 upholding the Singapore Arbitrator’s order. The final hearing at SIAC recently concluded and final order in the matter is awaited.