EXCLUSIVE India watchdog accuses Amazon of concealing facts in deal for Future Group unit
NEW DELHI, July 22 (Reuters) - Indias antitrust regulator has accused Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) of concealing facts and making false submissions when it sought approval for a 2019 investment in a Future Group unit, a letter to the U.S. e-commerce giant seen by Reuters showed.
The letter complicates Amazons bitter legal battle with Future Group over the Indians firms decision to sell its retail assets to Reliance Industries (RELI.NS) - a matter that is now before Indias Supreme Court.
Amazon has argued that terms agreed upon in its 2019 deal to pay $192 million for a 49% stake in Futures gift voucher unit prevent its parent, Future Group, from selling its Future Retail Ltd (FRTL.NS) business to Reliance.
In the letter dated June 4, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) said Amazon hid factual aspects of the transaction by not revealing its strategic interest in Future Retail when it sought approval for the 2019 deal.
"The representations and conduct of Amazon before the Commission amounts to misrepresentation, making false statement and suppression or/and concealment of material facts," the letter said. It also noted that its review of the submissions made had been prompted by a complaint from Future Group.
In the four-page letter, a so-called show cause notice, the CCI asked Amazon why it should not take action and penalise 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 it had received a letter, was committed to complying with Indias laws and would extend its full cooperation to the CCI.
Vaibhav Choukse, a competition law specialist and partner at J. Sagar Associates, said it was rare for the CCI to issue such a notice and that if the CCI was not satisfied by Amazons response, it could lead to a fine and even a review of the deal.
"The CCI has wide powers which includes directions to re-file the approval application and even revoke the approval under exceptional circumstances," Choukse said.