Delhi High Court Asks CCI To Consider Plea By Startups Against Google's New Payment Policy

 Delhi High Court Asks CCI To Consider Plea By Startups Against Google's New Payment Policy
Photo: 27.04.2023 229

Earlier, the Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF) approached the Delhi HC in a matter pertaining to Google's new in-app purchase billing system. However, the issue quickly evolved into ascertaining whether India’s competition watchdog, given its lack of quorum, could take up the complaints.

The Delhi High Court on Monday asked the Competition Commission of India (CCI) to consider on or before April 26 a plea by Alliance of Digital India Foundation against Google's policy on permitting the use of third party payment processors for paid app downloads and in-app purchases on a commission basis.

ADIF represents a group of Indian startups, including Paytm, MapmyIndia, Matrimony, TrulyMadly and others. The alliance  wrote to the CCI thrice — once in January and twice in March, urging the regulator to look into Google’s user-choice billing (UCB) policy.

Under the new policy, users would have a choice in making in-app purchases using Google’s own billing system, or through other methods like UPI, net banking, wallets, among others. However, non-Google payment options would attract 11-26% commission. ADIF believes that this system is anti-competitive and an attempt to bypass an order  for the admission of alternative payment systems passed by the Competition Commission of India.

The petitioner had approached the high court earlier this month with the grievance that the anti-trust regulator had failed to act on its application in relation to the new payment policy owing to lack of quorum.

The Competition Commission of India has been working without a chairman and has not been able to form the necessary quorum for decision-making since its chairperson Ashok Kumar Gupta retired in October. As per the Competition Act, a quorum of at least three members is needed for the regulator to adjudicate on antitrust matters.

The single-judge bench of the court ordered there was “no impediment, legal or otherwise, in directing the CCI to take up the applications” under the Competition Act. The order also noted that merely because “of a defect or a vacancy in the constitution of the CCI, the CCI cannot be considered as a statutory authority not having jurisdiction to adjudicate the complaints or other proceedings pending before it”.

Even as Google has appealed the matter before a division bench of the Delhi High Court, the competition watchdog has taken the matter up and has asked the parties to submit relevant documents to put forth their arguments.

According to The Economic Times, Google brought in the UCB system after its mandatory deployment of Google Play Billing System (GPBS) for developers was considered anti-competitive by the CCI. The ADIF, however, alleges that UCB is Google’s way of implementing GPBS in a different way. Google, on the other hand, has said that it has “fully complied with the CCI’s order” issued in October.

Source: Economic Times, BQ Prime

digital markets  India 

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