Flipkart Requests The Supreme Court To Stop Anti-Monitoring Consultations
Walmart-owned Flipkart has asked the Indian Supreme Court to withdraw the country's antitrust authorities after asking sensitive questions about the company's "aggressive" investigation into its e-commerce operations.
The proposal, in an unpublished over 700-page resolution, reflects the e-commerce giant's concern over an investigation that has sparked a public dispute between US companies and the Indian government.
In its investigation, which also involved Amazon, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) sought a list of Flipkart's top sellers, online discounts, and deals with smartphone makers, among 32 queries asked on July 15.
Flipkart told the Supreme Court that the information sought raised their fears of the "offensive nature" of the investigation and asked them to withhold both the information request and the entire investigation.
"The information sought is... of sensitive nature," Flipkart said in the court document. Such an investigation could have dire consequences for his reputation and goodwill, he said.
“It is clear that the Director-General is determined to take preventive action,” he said, referring to the chief investigator of the watchdog.
A source, who asked for anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said the cartel office also sent a request for information to Amazon as part of the investigation. Amazon Flipkart and CCI did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Although India's trade ministers and a court in South India have said companies should not back down from the investigation, Amazon and Flipkart said the CCI lacks evidence and should not have launched an investigation last year.
The Supreme Court's motion comes after a state court rejected the companies' pleas in June and July, saying the investigation should continue.
The antitrust agency, which gave Flipkart a July 30 deadline to respond to its inquiries, was planning to expedite investigations into Amazon and Flipkart after the court cleared them, Reuters reported in June.
The CCI's questions sought details of guidelines on how to display products on Flipkart's website and how to internally communicate with sellers about sale events, as indicated in the court document.
The watchdog also searched for a list of the top 100 Flipkart retailers and best-selling products from 2015-2020.
"The investigation ... includes an intrusive and revealing investigation," Flipkart said in the document, adding that it would have "tremendous" implications.
Indian retailers have said that Flipkart gives priority to select sellers on its platform to the detriment of smaller players.
In February, a Reuters investigation based on Amazon documents found that a small group of sellers had been receiving preferential treatment for years and bypassing Indian law. The companies deny any wrongdoing.