The CCI by its order dated August 10, 2015 has closed a case alleging abuse of dominance by IRCTC along with Ministry of Railways. The Informants had alleged that the IRCTC is involved in unfair practices such as unfair/ discriminatory conditions in Passenger Reservation System (PRS), compulsory provision of food in Rajdhani, Shatabdi, and Duronto trains, market barrier for entry of IRCTC agents, monopoly of food courts at large railway stations, restrictions on technical and scientific development in Indian Railways and restriction on private players providing meals through ecatering in trains with no pantry facility, etc. The investigation did not return any finding of violation of the Act. A brief summary of the major findings of the CCI with regards to the allegations is provided below:
- The CCI considered that levy of service charges on e-tickets as well as through agents does no amount to an abuse of dominant position by the IRCTC as sale of tickets through internet is a valueadded service provided by the Indian Railways and the service charges are levied in order to meet additional costs incurred due to sale of tickets online. Further, the customers had the alternative of avoiding the service charges by buying tickets through the PRS counters;
- The CCI noted that additional imposition of service charges on passenger for purchase of tickets through IRCTC agents is not abusive as the charges are nominal and the service is added optional facility made available to the passengers and is meant to cover additional expenditure incurred by the IRCTC agents like Rent, electricity charges, etc.
- Compulsory provision of food on Rajdhani/ Shatabdi/ Duronto trains was alleged as abusive as it does not give the customers as choice if they want to avail the services of food actually or not. The CCI disagreed with the same. The service is provided only on those premium trains which are less than 5% of the total number of trains operated by the Railways. Procuring food from outside the trains (railway platforms) will not be possible due to limited and short stoppage and allowing outside food will lead to security, safety and hygiene problems. Allowing food from outside may lead to security, safety, and hygiene problem in these premium trains. Lastly, the prices are not excessive in comparison to prevalent market rates.
- Restrictions on technical and scientific development in Indian Railways do not amount to abuse of dominant position, although there is scope for major improvement in the services being provided;
- As regards the premium charged for booking Tatkal tickets, the CCI was of the opinion that the Tatkal Scheme has been put in place to facilitate last-minute travel emergency plans. Further, the Tatkal and Premium Tatkal Scheme also help in generating additional revenue which help in covering the loss of revenue due to subsidization of passenger fares. As such it cannot be considered an abuse of dominant position.
- Imposition of cancellation/clerkage charges for cancellation of booked tickets is done as per the rules framed as per the Railways Act, 1989 and amounts to a statutory function. The same cannot be challenged in the CCI. Consequently, the CCI concluded that the IRCTC has not contravened section 4 of the Act.
Consequently, the CCI concluded that the IRCTC has not contravened section 4 of the Act.
Finally, the CCI recommended that the Ministry of Railways should consider discontinuing levying of service charges and other unnecessary restrictions on booking of e-tickets which may not affect its revenues in any significant manner and ensures that fees and other charges are efficiently and effectively levied on the passengers. It noted that though the service charges imposed are not high, total exclusion of the same may advance the causes noted above and may particularly be beneficial to the larger section of