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Google approaches Karnataka HC against CCI’s Google Play probe

CCI had in November 2020 directed a probe into the issue of mandatory use of Google Play Store’s payment system for paid apps & in-app purchases.

December 27, 2021 / 06:54 PM IST

Google has filed a writ petition in Karnataka High Court seeking more time to respond to the questions from Competition Commission of India (CCI) related to the investigation over the mandatory use of its Play Store’s payment system for paid apps and in-app purchases.

“We have filed a writ in Karnataka High Court regarding the interim relief application in the Google Play probe by the CCI, seeking to move forward in line with established due process principles. We respect the CCI’s investigative process and will continue to engage cooperatively and constructively in the interest of a fair investigation” a Google spokesperson said in a statement to Moneycontrol.

This comes on heels of the tech giant extending the Play billing policy deadline for app developers in India from March 31, 2022 to October 31, 2022 earlier this month. The company argued that since it has now "voluntarily" extended the deadline, there is no "urgency left" with regards to the matter.

On October 11, Moneycontrol reported that The Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF) had moved CCI to seek interim relief against the implementation of Google Play Store commission till the investigation into the tech giant’s abuse of dominance is complete. ADIF is a New Delhi-based think tank comprising more than 470 entrepreneurs and startups including the likes of Matrimony.com, Paytm, MapMyIndia, TrulyMadly, and GOQii among others.

At the time, ADIF had said this relief has been sought on behalf of app developers as Google’s new policy will restrict certain categories of apps to use only Google Billing System (GBS) for accepting payments. The country's antitrust regulator had directed the tech giant to respond to this petition by December 31, Moneycontrol has learnt.

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Sijo Kuruvilla George, Executive Director-ADIF, termed this writ petition as "yet another delay tactic"and "an attempt to frustrate the antitrust process"

"The only commitments that has been consistent on the part of Google throughout this entire antitrust process has been their commitment to a) delay the process in every way possible and b) protecting their super profits from the app economy abusing its dominance. We exhort Google to comply with the antitrust process in good faith and as per the directives of the CCI" said George.

Google’s reluctance to share information even after multiple directives to that effect on CCI’s part calls into question the good faith that is expected of Google while participating in the process, the think tank said.

CCI's probe into Google Play commission

CCI had in November 2020 directed a probe into the issue of mandatory use of Google Play Store’s payment system for paid apps & in-app purchases. The commission is of the prima facie view that such a policy is unfair as it restricts the ability of app developers to select a payment processing system of their choice.

Following ADIF's interim relief application in October 2021, CCI had directed Google to file its response by November 19, 2021, to which the firm had sought eight more weeks time to respond. CCI however had rejected this request and directed the firm to respond by December 31, 2021.

The regulator also rejected Google's request for access to the identity of app developers and startups that had given evidence of allegedly suffering harm from these guidelines.

On December 10, 2021, Google announced that it was extending the deadline by seven months for app developers to integrate with its Play billing system in India, to help developers with necessary product support for recurring payments through UPI, wallets and other systems in the backdrop of India’s latest guidelines.

Similar to rival Apple, Google requires developers using its Play Store for apps selling digital goods and services to use its own billing system and pay 30 percent of the sales generated as a service fee.

While Apple has strictly enforced the guideline, Google was lax until October 2020 when it announced it will proactively enforce the policy beginning September 30, 2021. The move however faced an intense backlash from Indian developers, as a result of which the tech giant has delayed the implementation of these rules in the country. The deadline for other markets ended on September 31, 2021.

Apart from the Play Store probe, CCI has also opened antitrust investigations against Google over its alleged dominance in multiple areas including its Android smartphone agreements and smart TV business.

It's worth noting that Google had earlier taken CCI to court over the "leak" of a confidential interim report related to an ongoing investigation into the company's Android smartphone agreements on September 23. The case was dismissed a few days later, with CCI agreeing to the company's requests to keep information confidential during the course of the investigation.
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Vikas SN
first published: Dec 27, 2021 02:03 pm
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