Amazon is fighting with India’s Future Group, and the feud is causing international embarrassment for the e-commerce giant.
India’s Future Group wins the big battle in its feud with Amazon
In the ongoing feud between the Future Group and Amazon, a division bench of the Delhi High Court has stayed the arbitration proceedings initiated by Amazon before a Singapore tribunal.
The Delhi High Court division bench stated that there was a “prime facie case” in Future group’s favour given the suspension of clearance given to Amazon’s 2019 deal with Future Coupons (FCPL) by the Competition Commission of India (CCI).
This is a big win for Future. Legal experts say that courts normally stay international arbitration proceedings under “rare” circumstances.
What does it mean?
For the Future Group, the stay order passed by the Delhi High Court means that the arbitration proceedings initiated by Amazon against Future Retail disputing the latter’s Rs. 24,500-crore merger deal with Reliance Retail will not take place unless Amazon goes in appeal and the Supreme Court stays the order passed by the Delhi High Court. This paves way for the Future-Reliance deal.
The Amazon-Future-Reliance triangle
The ongoing dispute between the Future Group and Amazon is rooted in the latter’s bid to maintain its domination in India’s multi-billion dollars’ online shopping market.
Amazon had bought a 49 per cent stake in FCPL. FCPL holds 10 per cent shares of FRL. Indirectly; Amazon became the owner of almost 5 per cent shares of FRL. Later, FRL entered into a deal with Reliance group for its superstore business.
According to independent directors of FRL, the deal between Reliance and Amazon was signed through full-fledged involvement of Amazon. However, as the events turned out, Reliance Group decided to make a huge foray into India’s multi-billion dollars’ online shopping market.
And then, Amazon finally decided to challenge the legality of the FRL-Reliance deal on multiple fronts. Its claim was that since it is a minority shareholder, it has a right to object to the advances of the deal. The multinational giant took Future Group to the court on the basis of a non-competitive clause that it has signed with the wholly-owned but unlisted subsidiary of the future group.
This was followed by several rounds of litigation between Amazon and the Future Group. Ultimately, FRL also decided to have a relook into its selling of FCPL shares to Amazon. FRL officially asked CCI to revoke the sale of FCPL shares to Amazon. The Indian retail giant cited false statements and representation by Amazon as its main concern behind its demand for an overhaul of the deal.
And the CCI ultimately suspended its clearance to Amazon’s 2019 deal with FCPL.
Amazon’s journey in India becoming more difficult
The latest incident involving Amazon’s dispute with the Future Group is one of the many difficulties that the multinational giant faces in India.
For quite some time, Amazon has also been facing allegations of predatory pricing. The small and medium Indian traders claim to be big casualties of this practice. Moreover, there have also been allegations of lack of clarity in the e-commerce giant’s policy of “preferred sellers”.
Such preferred sellers allegedly resort to deep discounting which may border on predatory pricing. There are also allegations of the “preferred sellers” being affiliated with or substantially controlled by Amazon. Such affiliation could be a violation of the 49 per cent cap on FDI in multi-brand retail.
Amazon’s problems in India thus continue and its feud with the Future Group is also becoming a source of international embarrassment.