The Competition Commission of India (CCI) is looking into antitrust allegations against Google’s digital payments app Google Pay, with the primary contention being that Google is using its control over the Google Play Store to influence users to download the Google Pay app.
A Reuters report citing sources said that a complaint was filed in February with CCI, however, the complainant hasn’t been disclosed. The regulator has informed Google about the case, who will respond in due course.
The allegation is that Google prominently showcases its Google Pay app inside the Play Store on Android smartphones and devices in India over other apps, giving it an unfair advantage over apps of competitors which hurts consumers and the fintech industry.
The case is currently being reviewed by senior CCI officials, who may direct the investigations unit to conduct a wider probe into the allegations, or dismiss the case if they find no merit in it. Google will also have to appear before the watchdog which will then decide on the way forward.
The complaint alleges that Google is able to leverage its strong position thanks to its control on the Play Store to promote the app. The complaint also alleges Google is promoting its payments app using search manipulation, however this hasn’t been further explained in the report. Inc42 queries sent to Google didn’t elicit any response till the time of publication.
This is the third antitrust complaint against Google in India. Earlier, in 2018, the CCI fined Google $21 Mn for “search bias”, but a company appeal against that is pending. It also started a probe against Google in 2019 for allegedly misusing its dominant position to reduce the ability of smartphone manufacturers to opt for alternate versions of its Android mobile operating system.
At the same time, Google Pay was recently dragged to court for allegedly not following unified payments interface (UPI) interoperability. A petition had alleged in Delhi High Court that Google Pay forces consumers to create a new UPI ID or VPA to use its platform and shows them as new users. The petitioner alleged that he tried to make multiple payments through the Google Pay application, none of which allowed him to add his existing UPI ID.
Further, in the UPI space, CCI is looking into the allegations that WhatsApp is abusing its dominant position by offering digital payments to its users. The case is based on a complaint filed in mid-March by a lawyer, whose identity has not been divulged. It has been alleged that WhatsApp with its messenger feature and payment feature, once bundled can harm competition and violate India’s anti-trust laws.
In India, Google Pay has been limited to a unified payment interface (UPI) and has been leading the digital payments market. As per the Sensor Tower’s Store Intelligence platform, Google Pay, became the most downloaded digital payments platforms across the globe, with major traction coming from India.
In February 2020, Google Pay was downloaded 15.6 Mn times, with 13.04 Mn downloads coming from India alone. Google Pay also topped the list in January 2020 with 13.4 Mn downloads in total.