August 04, 2005, The Hindu Business Line
New Delhi

IN THE beginning of 1990, there were about 30 countries with a competition law, but now the number is about a hundred, informs Vijay Kelkar in his foreword to a new book from Academic Foundation (, titled Towards a Functional Competition Policy for India: an overview edited by Pradeep S. Mehta.

In the intro, one comes across dismal statistics, cited from a 2004 report of the World Bank: “… in India entrepreneurs on average go through 11 steps to launch business, which takes 89 days on average, against a regional average of 9 steps and 46 days.” In a sample of 145 countries, India scored the 130th place in terms of number of days to get procedural clearances!

The book compiles more than a score chapters written by experts and the topics covered include evolution of competition policy, the Competition Act, mergers and acquisitions, cross-border competition issues, competition in agriculture, manufacturing, and so on.

Mehta is the founder Secretary-General of CUTS (Consumer Unity & Trust Society) based in Jaipur. And, predictably, there are chapters devoted to the consumer. “Unfortunately, there is no agreed definition of consumer welfare,” he writes, before looking at the UN’s guidelines in this regard for help.

Consumers have eight rights according to the Charter of Consumers International, and these are about basic needs, safety, choice, redress, information, consumer education, representation, and healthy environment.

Another chapter studies `competition abuses at consumer level’ and focuses on `tied-selling in healthcare and education services’.

On `competition and professional services’, T.C.A. Anant states that the key feature is that the service, supplied through individuals, is highly idiosyncratic in character, and so services are strictly not comparable across consumers.

This characteristic lays the ground for different types of market failure, which can be due to informational issues, both asymmetric and imperfect, or externalities, comments the author.

A book to keep pace with.