In an order issued on Friday, the CCI said it is of the opinion that an ‘inquiry needs to be made’ into Google’s new payments mandates
The CCI has directed Google to furnish certain information on its processes and internal policies regarding data sharing, data-steering provisions and the new billing policy
The development weeks after the Delhi High Court ordered the CCI to probe the complaints filed by Indian startups against the new policy for allegedly flouting antitrust directives
The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has reportedly commenced an investigation into tech giant Google’s contentious user choice billing system for allegedly flouting October 2022 antitrust directives.
In an order issued on Friday (May 12) and seen by news agency Reuters, the CCI said that it was of the opinion that an ‘inquiry needs to be made’ into Google’s new billing system.
It also directed the US-based tech giant to explain certain provisions related to the in-app payment system before and after the introduction of the new user choice billing system. The antitrust watchdog also sought more information from Google on its policies related to sharing of user and app developer data.
The CCI set a four-week deadline for Google to file responses in the matter.
Google was not immediately available to comment on Inc42’s queries on the report.
Commenting on the matter, a spokesperson of the Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF) said, “…the CCI has not only stated that an enquiry needs to be made against the compliance by Google but has also directed Google to file a detailed response to a set of queries mentioned in the order, including information on its processes and internal policies regarding data sharing, data-steering provisions, UCB policy. The tech giant has been provided with four weeks to provide its responses to the queries.”
The latest development comes weeks after the Delhi High Court (HC) accepted the ADIF’s plea seeking CCI’s intervention into the complaints filed by Indian startups against the user choice billing system. The legal offensive was led by Indian startups such as Paytm, Matrimony, MapmyIndia and US-based dating app Tinder-parent Match Group which have urged the CCI to probe Google’s new billing policy.
In its plea before the HC, a number of Indian startups alleged that the new payments mandates were a ‘cloaked version’ of the previous billing regime and part of Google’s efforts to circumvent the CCI’s directives. The petition also claimed that the tech major was still charging high commissions from app developers in contravention of the CCI’s October 2022 guidelines that warned Google to not impose any ‘unfair and disproportionate’ conditions on app developers.
Google Lands In A Soup
Google is navigating through uncharted waters ever since the CCI, in two landmark antitrust rulings, found the tech major guilty of abusing its dominance in the Android devices market and through its Play Store policies.
The watchdog slapped a total fine of over INR 2,200 Cr in the two cases and directed the US-based tech giant to undertake sweeping changes to its in-app billing policy in the country.
As a result, Google introduced the user choice billing system, which it intended to replace the erstwhile Google Billing Payments System (GBPS). However, the move opened a floodgate of litigation for the tech major as Indian startups rushed to courts to keep the new payment system in abeyance and even won an injunction against the policy in Madras HC.
However, the Delhi HC, last month, acting on the plea filed by Indian startups, directed the CCI to undertake an investigation into the new billing mandates.
The aftermath also saw Indian startup founders come out all guns blazing against the startup, with Shaadi CEO Anupam Mittal terming it as a ‘digital East India Company’. Another Indian founder and Matrimony CEO Murugavel Janakiraman called it a threat to the homegrown startup ecosystem.
The founders also opened a front against other big tech companies within the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and accused the latter of batting for foreign big tech giants. While the industry body is opposed to the need for a new digital competition law, Indian startups have vehemently and openly opposed its stance.
This adds to a plethora of legal cases that Google is currently saddled with. While the tech giant has more or less cleared its antitrust dues, it is the changes suggested by the CCI that the tech major is opposing tooth and nail. It remains to be seen how Google handles the legal troubles in one of its biggest markets globally.