Case No. 52 of 2013. Case: Financial Software and Systems Private Limited Informant Vs ACI Worldwide Solutions Private Limited. Competition Commision of India

Case NumberCase No. 52 of 2013
CounselFor Appellant: Ramji Srinivasan, Sr. Advocate, G.R. Bhatia, Vardhan Tulsian, Deeksha Manchanda and Jahnavi Mitra, Advocates and For Respondents: Amitabh Kumar, Gautam Shahi, Lagna Panda and Ela Bali, Advocates
JudgesAshok Chawla, Chairperson, S.L. Bunker, Sudhir Mital, Augustine Peter and U.C. Nahta, Members
IssueCompetition Act, 2002 - Sections 19(1)(a), 19(3), 19(4), 19(6), 19(7), 2(r), 2(s), 2(t), 26(1), 3, 3(1), 3(4), 3(4)(a), 3(4)(b), 3(4)(c), 3(4)(d), 3(5), 3(5)(i), 33, 4, 4(1), 4(2), 4(2)(a)(i), 4(2)(a)(ii), 4(2)(b)(i), 4(2)(b)(ii), 4(2)(c), 4(2)(d), 4(2)(e), 4(a)(i), 5; Payment And Settlement Systems Act 2007 - Section 2(c)
Judgement DateJanuary 13, 2015
CourtCompetition Commision of India


  1. M/s. Financial Software and Systems Private Limited (hereinafter, the 'Informant'/'FSS') has filed the information in the instant case, under section 19(1)(a) of the Competition Act, 2002 (hereinafter, the 'Act') against M/s. ACI Worldwide Solutions Private Limited (hereinafter, the 'Opposite Party No. 1'), M/s. ACI Worldwide Incorporated, Florida, USA (hereinafter, the 'Opposite Party No. 2') and M/s. ACI Worldwide (Asia) Pvt. Limited, Singapore (hereinafter, the 'Opposite Party No. 3') [collectively hereinafter, the 'Opposite Parties'/'ACI'], inter alia, alleging contravention of provisions of sections 3 and 4 of the Act in the matter.

  2. Facts, in Brief

    2.1 The Informant is stated to be a private limited company incorporated under the Companies Act, 1956 and operating in the areas of electronic payment, financial transaction processing solutions and services. It has been a technology partner, system integrator and co-innovator for several leading banks to transform their payment systems, increase operational efficiencies and launch new business processes. The Informant caters to the specific needs of the banks through its two business divisions i.e., FSS Technologies and FSSNeT. FSS Technologies provides services to the clients including systems integration, offshore development, product sustenance, project management and implementation, upgrade and migration services, product testing and certification, application testing, onsite technical support and 24/7 global helpdesk support. FSSNeT offers payment processing services across all delivery channels including Automated Teller Machine ('ATM'), Point of Sale ('POS') terminals, internet and mobile with authorization by the banks. It provides services such as card management, merchant management, internet payment gateway, mobile banking & mobile payment, reconciliation & settlement, financial inclusion, a bouquet of value added services and ATM management services on a pay-per-use model including leasing ATM and site management.

    2.2 The Opposite Party No. 1 is a company incorporated under the Companies Act, 1956 and is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Opposite Party No. 2 (a NASDAQ listed public company) engaged in the business of developing 'BASE24' software for electronic payment solutions that enable card-based payment transactions. The Opposite Party No. 3 is a company incorporated under the laws of Singapore. All the Opposite Parties have been described as affiliate/group entities. The Opposite Parties are stated to be engaged in the business of developing BASE24, a transaction processing switch software ('Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT) Switch'), which according to the informant enables an ATM or POS terminal to communicate with the relevant bank's core banking network.

    2.3 As per the information, all banks and financial institutions which desire to provide ATM, POS, mobile banking and internet banking services require EFT Switch/switch software and at present about 77% of ATMs and about 80% of POS terminals in India operate on BASE24 software. It is further submitted that BASE24 software (and other comparable software) requires modifications to enable banks to offer additional value added services through ATMs and POS devices. It is stated that the relationship between ACI and the banks which are using BASE24 software ('ACI Banks') is governed by a license agreement that provides the right to ACI Banks to use and to customize the modules of the BASE24 software.

    2.4 The Informant provides software modification and customization services to ACI Banks. The Informant and ACI are stated to have had a long standing relationship, starting from FSS acting as a re-seller for ACI for BASE24 software in India in 1991, and then in 1998 becoming a distributor and service provider for BASE24 software in India through various International Distribution Agreements ('IDA'). During the currency of distribution agreement, certain disputes arose between FSS and ACI sometime in 2007-08. On 16 June 2008, ACI proposed a new arrangement whereby ACI terminated the distribution agreements with FSS; ACI license agreements between FSS and existing ACI Banks in India were to be assigned to ACI India; and ACI was to endorse FSS as a provider of services in respect of BASE24 software to ACI Banks in India and FSS would be able to directly deal with ACI Banks or via ACI India.

    2.5 Thereafter, FSS and ACI initiated legal proceedings before the Hon'ble High Court of Madras at Chennai and the Singapore International Arbitration Centre ('SIAC'). Subsequently, the disputes were settled through negotiations leading to a Settlement and Release Agreement ('SRA') on 17th February 2010 between them whereby FSS and ACI agreed to settle all disputes; the distribution agreements between FSS and ACI stood terminated; from 01.04.2010, both ACI and FSS would have had the right to provide professional services, including implementation and customer modification services to all ACI Banks; and till 31.03.2011, FSS was to serve as ACI's 'preferred services partner' for ACI products i.e., BASE24.

    2.6 Pursuant to the terms of the SRA, FSS and ACI made a joint presentation to all ACI Banks whereby FSS transitioned from a distributor to a system integrator; ACI continues to provide support on the core product i.e., BASE24 software through its helpdesk services and on-site documentation; FSS continues to provide support on such customization; BASE24 software and the services around the software are two different products/services; and if a module license requires customization, then ACI Banks would have the 'option to ask ACI or FSS to do it.

    2.7 It is the case of the Informant that during the period 2010-11, ACI took the position that it would not allow FSS to continue to provide system integration/other services in respect of the BASE24 software. However, in a meeting held on 08.06.2011, ACI Banks stressed that it was their prerogative to choose 'the production support (on-site support) and service partner'. On 21.06.2011, in a meeting of ACI Banks and ACI, it was informed to ACI Banks that ACI would allow the banks to take 'professional services (including implementation and customization)' only through ACI or their authorized third party provider excluding FSS. However, ACI Banks opposed the said action stating that ACI has no capability to provide the support services and submitted that since 95% of ATMs in India are connected to BASE24 switch they cannot afford any risk to their operations.

    2.8 Subsequently, on 14.07.2011, a meeting between ACI Banks, ACI and FSS was held wherein ACI agreed to give its consent to ACI Banks to use FSS or third party for customers' specific modification to BASE24 software for a period of 6 months. Then, in August, 2011, ACI wrote to ACI Banks stating that it would provide consent to use FSS services for doing customizations on BASE24 software for a period of 24 months ending July 13, 2013.

    2.9 But, in February, 2013 ACI made a presentation before ACI Banks stating that after 13.07.2013 it would not provide consent to any third party to access, modify or customize the existing BASE24 application as it had launched ACI enhanced support program ('ACI ESP') under which it would provide services to ACI Banks similar to those being provided by FSS. In May, 2013, ACI sent letters to each ACI Banks communicating its decision that it would not allow to banks to use FSS or any other third party to provide customizations services on BASE24 software beyond July, 2013.

    2.10 Based on the above averments and allegations, the Informant has alleged that ACI has abused its dominant position under section 4 of the Act by not allowing ACI Banks to choose a service provider of their choice; imposing unfair condition in the purchase or sale of goods or services through exclusive supply arrangements with ACI Banks; directing ACI Banks not to avail the integration services of FSS, thereby restricting the provision of services of customization and modification in respect of software for electronic payment systems i.e., the downstream market; using its dominance in the upstream market of software for electronic payment systems to gain entry in the downstream market of provision for services of customization and modification in respect of software for electronic payment systems; and limiting and restricting the technical or scientific development in the market.

    2.11 The Informant has also alleged contravention of the provisions of section 3(4) of the Act by ACI. As per the Informant, ACI is restricting its customer banks from dealing with any third party in respect of providing services of customization and modification of ACI products amounting to refusal to deal. It is alleged that the restriction imposed by ACI causes or is likely to cause an appreciable adverse effect on competition ('AAEC') in the downstream market in India as it would lead to foreclosure of competition in the downstream market and also result in creation of entry barriers and driving existing competitors out of the downstream market. It is also alleged that ACI seeks to impose tie-in arrangements with ACI Banks by tying the upstream market of software with the downstream market of services. Hence, this arrangement by ACI causes or is likely to cause AAEC in the market.

  3. After giving a thoughtful consideration to the facts of the case as given in the information, the Commission vide its order under section 26(1) of the Act dated 04.09.2013 stated that prima facie the conduct of ACI was in contravention of provisions of sections 3 and 4 of the Act and needed investigation by the Director General ('DG').

  4. Further, after considering the application for interim relief, the Commission vide its order dated 11.02.2014, granted interim relief to the Informant under section 33 of the Act. Consequently, the Opposite Parties were restrained from implementing the condition imposed on ACI Banks that they would...

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