Whilst the world is focused on beating the crisis caused by COVID-19, competition authorities across the world are doing their bit to ensure that consumers are not exploited in this unprecedented situation. The common man's mantra to curb the spread of the virus is self-isolation and work-from-home is the new norm. The magic wand that has turned this into reality is technology and IT teams are working tirelessly to avoid any disruptions. Here is a snapshot of the key updates from the competition authorities in India.
All CCI proceedings suspended:
Due to a lockdown in New Delhi to avoid the spread of COVID-19, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) has suspended all filings, merger notifications, pre-filing consultations and investigations by the Director General, until 31 March 2020. 
Before the lockdown, the CCI was taking up only urgent matters , allowing filings (including e-filings) and made a provision for pre-filing consultations through video conferencing from Mumbai .
Only urgent matters before competition appellate authorities:
The National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT), the appellate body of the CCI, has decided to hear only urgent matters till 1 April 2020. It has further notified that the filing counter at the NCLAT will also remain closed. On days when the Bench sits to hear urgent matters, bare minimum staff will be assigned duty work. 
The Supreme Court of India and various High Courts (including the High Courts of Delhi and Mumbai) have restricted their working to urgent matters only.
No change to standard competition compliance:
As the situation currently stands in India, there is no exception to any collusive activity or abusive conduct which takes place amidst the global crisis caused by COVID-19. However, any conduct/ activity (which may otherwise be anti-competitive), temporarily undertaken by an enterprise to fight the crisis in compliance with the direction of the Government, may not be penalized under the (Indian) Competition Act, 2002. To avoid any competition law violation risk, any collaborative effort by competitors to fight the crisis should be legally vetted.
Key announcements by foreign competition authorities to fight COVID-19 crisis:
Following are some of the key announcements from other mature competition law jurisdictions:
- In the United States, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has published an advisory announcing that individuals or companies that fix prices or rig bids for personal health protection equipment such as sterile gloves and face masks could face criminal prosecution.  The DOJ has requested an additional 30 days to complete its review of pending or proposed merger transactions and has made provisions for electronic filing systems and phone and video-conferencing systems for conducting meetings and depositions. 
- The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has also announced that it will temporarily allow Hart-Scott-Rodino filings electronically, electronic signatures on certifications and affidavits, and will not be granting requests for early termination. The FTC is conducting a matter-by-matter review of its investigations and litigations to consider appropriate modifications of statutory or agreed-to timing. Commissioner meetings will be conducted by telephone or videoconference rather than in-person. 
- Due to the complexities and disruptions caused by the COVID-19, the European Commission has requested companies to delay merger notifications originally planned until further notice, where possible.  The European Commission has suspended three Phase II investigations due to companies failing to comply with information deadlines, which may have been caused by coronavirus. 
- In the United Kingdom, the Competition and Markets Authority has temporarily relaxed elements of competition law to allow super-markets to work together essentially allowing them to share data with each other on stock levels, cooperate to keep shops open, or share distribution depots, delivery vans and pool staff. 
Although the CCI has not made any announcements relaxing application of competition rules or amending its procedures/ timelines, the CCI is watching the situation closely along with the Government and may make certain announcements, as and when necessary.
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