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Bengaluru: The Competition Commission of India (CCI) on Thursday approached the Karnataka High Court to vacate the stay of a probe into alleged anti-competitive practices and preferential treatment of sellers among other charges against online retailers Flipkart and Amazon.

The CCI approached the HC almost two months after the Supreme Court (SC) refused to entertain the CCI’s plea to vacate the stay on the investigation by Walmart-owned Flipkart and American e-commerce giants, Amazon.

The Karnataka HC had stayed an investigation by CCI after Amazon filed a writ petition in February this year.

“The matter is fixed for final hearing on 18 January," said one person aware of the developments, requesting not to be named.

The Delhi Vyapar Mahasangh (DVM), a group representing small- and medium-sized businesses, on 13 Januarycomplained to the CCI alleging business malpractices by Amazon and Flipkart, which included preferential treatment to sellers affiliated with, or controlled by, the companies, predatory pricing and exclusive arrangements with mobile phone brands, Mint reported.

The case will bring back focus on the long-drawn conflict between offline retailers and their well-funded online counterparts who offer deep-discounts, exclusive launches which, the former alleges, goes against competition regulations and a level playing field in the space.

Amazon had argued in court that the CCI’s order to investigate the former had been passed “without application of mind" and likened it to an “open-ended fishing expedition" as well as jurisdictional overreach.

Flipkart and Amazon have the biggest share of India’s booming e-commerce market that is expected to reach $99 billion by 2024, according to a Goldman Sachs review of the sector globally.

JioMart, the Reliance Industries-led online retailer that has also entered the sector, is estimated to reach a gross merchandise value (GMV) of around $35 billion in the next four years with a 31% share of the e-commerce market from around 1% currently.

The report titled 'Global Internet: e-commerce's steepening curve', goes on to state that India’s growth rate in the sector would outdo more developed economies. The report stated that the covid-19 pandemic had helped double the penetration of e-commerce globally.

Grocery, fashion and apparel are likely to be the key drivers of growth as online penetration of retail is estimated to reach 10.7% by 2024 as against 4.7% in 2019, the report added.

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