Indian startup body moves against "unfair" Google Play Store policy

The group is seeking interim relief on behalf of app developers as it claims the tech giant will force them to use its billing system

The Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF) has filed a petition with the Competition Commission of India (CCI) seeking interim relief from the tech giant’s Play Store policy, which is set to potentially go into effect in March 2022.

The ADIF is seeking relief on behalf of app developers, claiming that Google’s new policy will restrict certain categories of apps to only use Google Billing System (GBS) for accepting payments. It says this would be an issue as GBS charges 30% commission for all transactions on the Google Play Store, compared to 2% charged by other payment processing systems.

In November 2020, the CCI ordered a probe into Google following a complaint alleging that the big tech firm, through its control of the Play Story and Android operating system, favours Google Pay over its competing apps. The complaint claimed that this amounts to abuse of its dominant position.

The ADIF wants to maintain the current conditions until the ongoing inquiry has been completed. Its petition also states that, apart from the 30% commission being extremely high and unfair, the core issue is the mandatory imposition of the Google Play Billing system and the exclusion of other methods of payment.

“ADIF foresees that barring an order passed by this Hon’ble Commission to maintain status-quo until the completion of the ongoing inquiry, Google shall proceed to enforce its terms on the Play Store, thereby leading to adverse and irreversible consequences on India’s fledgling startup ecosystem,” said Sijo Kuruvilla George, Executive Director of the ADIF.

The startup body added that this gives Google a lot of bargaining power as over 70% of global smartphone users have Android installed on their phones. In India, Android has around 95% market share which ensures that Google Play is pre-installed in around 95% of the mobile devices in the country. The ADIF added that bringing in a mandatory policy of only having one type of billing system would have huge repercussions.

IT Pro has contacted Google for comment.

In September, South Korea’s antitrust regulator fined Google $177 million for blocking customised versions of its Android operating system. The Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) said that Google’s contract terms with device makers amounted to an abuse of its dominant market position and restricted competition in the mobile OS market.

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