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India Launches Antitrust Probe into Google Over In-App Billing Dispute

 |  March 17, 2024

India’s antitrust regulator, the Competition Commission of India (CCI), has initiated an investigation into Alphabet’s Google following allegations of unfair and discriminatory practices regarding its in-app billing system. The CCI’s order, issued on Friday, asserts that Google has potentially violated multiple provisions of India’s antitrust laws, prompting the regulatory body to order a probe to be completed within 60 days.

The investigation stems from a complaint filed by numerous Indian app developers and industry groups who have voiced concerns over what they perceive as unjust actions by Google. The dispute escalated last month when Google removed over 100 apps from 10 Indian developers for alleged non-compliance with its billing policies. Although Google later reinstated the apps, it mandated that the developers adhere to its Play Store billing regulations, prompting the affected firms to seek CCI intervention.

At the heart of the CCI’s allegations is Google’s billing system for in-app purchases and paid apps on its Play Store. The regulator contends that Google imposes an excessive and inequitable service fee ranging from 10% to 30%, which it deems disproportionate to the value of services provided. In its 21-page order, the CCI remarked, “The price being charged by Google appears to be unfair in itself,” highlighting the significant reliance of app developers on the Play Store ecosystem.

Related: Indian Startup Alliance Urges Antitrust Watchdog to Reprimand Google

Moreover, the CCI accuses Google of implementing its policies in a discriminatory manner, drawing arbitrary distinctions between apps offering digital goods and services and those offering physical equivalents, despite both utilizing similar facilities on the Play Store platform.

The outcome of the investigation holds significant implications not only for Google but also for the broader tech ecosystem in India, where the country’s digital economy is rapidly growing. The dispute underscores the increasing scrutiny faced by major tech firms over their market practices, particularly concerning app store regulations and fees.

In response to the CCI’s order, Google reiterated its commitment to cooperating with regulators while defending its billing policies, which it asserts are designed to ensure a safe and secure environment for users and developers alike.

Source: Tech Crunch