iNDICA NEWS BUREAU-
The Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF), an industry body of 422 Indian startups, has filed a petition before the Competition Commission of India (CCI) in October this year seeking interim relief from Google’s Play Store billing policy, which was set to go into effect from March 2022.
The US internet giant has filed a writ petition with the Karnataka High Court, asking the court for more time to respond to the allegations against the company. In turn, the CCI had asked Google to file its response by December 31, 2021.
“Indeed, the measures sought to be restrained will not take place until 31 October 2022 at the earliest. The Petitioners emphasize that – due to the October 2022 Implementation Announcement – the impacted developers do not presently need to change any of their current business practices or incur any additional fees on account of the Google Play Billing Clarifications,” the company argues in its petition. It also accuses the CCI of proceeding with a “rushed full submission” on the ADIF’s petition.
“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,” the company said in a statement.
Google also asked for the inclusion of a judicial member in the CCI panel hearing the case, and for the identity of the complainants to be revealed. While the October petition came from the ADIF, the complaint itself has been filed by anonymous complaints.
It said that the order “denies Google the right” to find out whether the complainants in the case are “among the very small percentage” of Indian app developers/startups who are affected by Google’s policy.
However, competition lawyers said that Google will have to prove that not knowing the identity of the complainants affects its ability to defend itself, while the CCI will have to prove that revealing the identity of the complainants could hurt said, complainants.
“Natural justice encompasses fairness of procedure,” said Anisha Chand, partner, competition and antitrust, at law firm Khaitan and Co.
Further, Chand also said that the Competition Act says that no proceedings of the CCI would be invalid by reason of any vacancy or any defect in its constitution. “Accordingly, absence of a judicial member doesn’t invalidate the decision of the CCI. This has been upheld in Cadd Systems Delhi High court order of 2019,” she said.
The Play Store billing policy requires app developers to use its built-in payment modes for selling apps and services through the Play Store. The policy was announced earlier this year and Google had given Indian startups time till March 2022 to comply with the same, after widespread criticism from Indian startups, including PayTM’s Vijay Shekhar Sharma, RazorPay’s Harshil Mathur and Matrimony.com’s Murugavel Janakiraman.
“This legal challenge by Google is yet another delay tactic and an attempt to frustrate the antitrust process. We exhort Google to comply with the antitrust process in good faith and as per the directives of the CCI,” ADIF’s Executive Director, Sijo Kuruvilla George, said in a statement.