Google ‘unfairly’ blocking rival payments in Play Store: CCI

“We will continue to engage with the CCI and demonstrate that our practices benefit Indian consumers and developers, without in any way restricting competition,” Google said in a statement.

Google said Lemoine was employed with the company as a software engineer and not as an ethicist | File Photo

The Competition Commission of India (CCI), through its probe, has found that Google’s billing system for app developers is “unfair and discriminatory”.

In its preliminary report last month, the competition regulator said, “Google is imposing unfair and discriminatory conditions in violation of regulations.”

“Google’s conduct is also resulting in denial of market access to competing UPI apps since the market for UPI enabled digital payment apps is multi-sided, and the network effects will lead to a situation where Google Pay’s competitors will be completely excluded from the market in the long run,” it said, according to a Bloomberg report.

The CCI launched an investigation after complaints against the search engine giant over its Play Store policies.

Concerns were also raised by developers globally at the steep commissions charged by app stores owned by Google and Apple. After severe backlash, Google had slashed the commission fee from 30% to 15%.

After regulatory action in South Korea, Google was forced to provide an alternative billing system and said it was reducing app makers’ fees by 4%.

The Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF), an industry body for India’s digital startups, had last year filed a petition before CCI against Google’s new Play Store policies.

“We have maintained that Google must be fair and end the ongoing anti-competitive practices in the name of PlayStore policies. The matter has been challenged, is being studied by CCI and is awaiting verdict,” ADIF had said in October 2021.

As a part of the investigation, CCI has clubbed three different orders and complaints together, filed with the commission between 2020 and 2021, which allege Google to be favouring Google Pay over other competing apps, through its control over the Play Store and the Android operating system (OS), a report in Economic Times said.

In 2020, the company had announced March 31, 2022, as the deadline for developers in India to integrate with Play Store’s billing system.

Google had stated that apps that choose to sell digital content through its Play Store have to use the Google Play billing system and pay a percentage of the in-app purchase as a fee.

It had given time until September 30, 2021, to complete the necessary updates. However, in December last year, Google extended the deadline to October 31, 2022.

Reacting to CCI’s initial findings, ADIF said it would refrain from commenting on the report.

“As the matter is under investigation by the CCI, and given that the report or its findings have not been made public by the CCI, we are not at liberty to comment on specific matters pertaining to the case or the proceedings.

“We at ADIF place our utmost trust in the CCI and stay committed to due process. As and when the CCI makes its findings/final verdict public, we would be happy to comment on the matter and share our views,” ADIF said in a statement.

“We will continue to engage with the CCI and demonstrate that our practices benefit Indian consumers and developers, without in any way restricting competition,” Google said in a statement.

(With inputs from Agencies)

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