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Unfair biz plaint against Warner Bros., Walt Disney, Fox Star; probe denial an error: Tribunal

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MUMBAI: The Competition Appellate Tribunal, for the second time in a year, has rejected the Competition Commission's decision to dismiss a complaint of alleged unfair business ways made against Walt Disney, Warner Bros, Fox Star Studios and four other entities.

The COMPAT, in a strongly-worded order, said that the CCI had committed serious error by declining to order an investigation.

The complaint filed by K Sera Sera against the seven entities was rejected by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) after concluding that there was no prima-facie violation of competition norms, PTI reported. The watchdog dismissed the allegations twice, in April 2015 and June this year.

The seven entities are -- US-based Digital Cinemas Initiatives LLC, a joint venture, and its six stakeholder partners — The Walt Disney Company India, Fox Star Studios, NBC Universal Media Distribution Services, Sony Pictures, Warner Bros and Paramount Films India (respondents).

"Rationally speaking, it would have saved time and efforts of all those involved in this matter if the Commission had ordered an investigation by the director general instead of once again more or less reiterating its earlier views," the Tribunal said in the order.

COMPAT said the "impugned order is set aside and the director-general is ordained to conduct investigation into the allegations contained in the information filed by the appellant (K Sera Sera)". The investigation shall be conducted in accordance with the provisions contained in the Competition Commission of India (General) Regulations, 2009, the Tribunal noted.

It was alleged that these entities indulged in anti-competitive practices in the digital cinema exhibition market, the PTI report added. It was alleged that Digital Cinemas LLC was formed with the aim of dominating and monopolising the market of digital cinema exhibition in India and elsewhere.

In April 2015, CCI had rejected the allegations, and K Sera Sera approached the Tribunal, which asked the regulator to reconsider the matter.

COMPAT stated: "on one hand, the respondents claim that their technology is voluntary, on the other, they create potential entry barriers by releasing their films only to those who opt for digital technology," noting that it was "prima-facie anti-competitive."

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