The Competition Commission of India (CCI) on Wednesday informed the Karnataka High Court that it will complete its investigation into Google in the next 60 days. The competition regulator was responding to a writ petition that Google filed on December 28, requesting more time to respond to allegations of antitrust practises against the company made by a group of startups.
The issue dates back to October 2021, when the Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF), an industry body of 422 Indian startups, filed a petition before the CCI seeking interim relief from Google’s new Play Store billing policy that was then supposed to take effect from March 2022. The CCI, in turn, asked Google for a response to these allegations by December 31. The competition regulator had earlier ordered a probe into the company and its billing policies.
On December 28, Google filed a writ petition in the Karnataka High Court, seeking more time to respond. Google also sought for the inclusion of a judicial member on the CCI panel hearing the case, and for the identity of the complainants to be disclosed. While the ADIF had filed a petition at the CCI in October, the original information was filed by anonymous complainants.
“We are pleased with the outcome of today’s hearing before the Karnataka High Court and welcome the CCI’s recognition that there is no need to proceed with ADIF’s request for interim orders, and that the CCI will instead focus on completing its ongoing factual
investigation. As we have said previously, we will continue to cooperate with the CCI’s investigative process,” the company said in a statement today.
Even though Google hadn’t filed its reply with the CCI, last month the company extended the deadline for bringing its Play Store billing policy into effect to October 2022. The CCI, today, informed the court that its investigation will be completed in 60 days, while Google withdrew its writ petition and promised to cooperate with the CCI’s investigation.
“Google’s consistent attempts throughout have been to implement their mandatory Play Store billing policy and to also delay or evade any antitrust indictment. By conveying to the Court that the CCI is expected to complete their investigation in 60 days, the antitrust regulator has essentially checkmated Google’s attempt to delay the overall antitrust investigation process by exploiting legal challenges,” said Sijo Kuruvilla George, executive director of the ADIF.
The Android maker isn’t the only company facing such an investigation either. The CCI also ordered a probe into Apple’s billing policies on January 1, after a complaint was filed in September 2021 by a little-known non-profit called Together We Fight Society. Both Apple and Google require app developers to use their built-in payments tools in order to sell apps and services through the Play Store and App Store, respectively. In turn, developers have to pay commissions to these companies for these sales.
India’s CCI isn’t the only competition regulator looking into billing policies implemented by platform operators like Google and Apple. Both South Korea and Japan, have directed the companies to allow developers to use third party payments modes on apps, and have barred them from forcing their built-in payments modes. Apple even changed its rules in September 2021, as part of an agreement with the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC).
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