In-app purchases controversy: TCC to hear charges against Google this week

The Competition Commission of India’s (CCI) probe into Google’s payment policy may soon be over, as the antitrust regulator is expected to start a confidential hearing this week into charges against its controversial Play Store developer policy. .

The three-member ICC panel, led by Chairman Ashok Kumar Gupta, will likely hear the case daily later this week and is expected to adopt the final decision by September.

This decision is relevant because it will bring greater legal certainty to the payment policy proposed by Google, which will come into effect on October 31.

App developers have been mandated to integrate their payment systems with the Play Store billing system on schedule.

“The proceedings begin this month and must be heard from start to finish,” a person familiar with the development told Business Standard.

He added that the commission was expected to close the deal in seven to ten days.

The order could impose a penalty on the tech giant if the ICC finds its policy to be in violation of competitive conduct.

“The panel will consider the relevant findings of the case, which alleged that Google favored its own application — Google Pay — over its competitors, which is unfair and discriminatory. In addition, it will consider whether the proposed payment policy Complies with competition laws,” another person said.

During the proceedings, the panel will hear the company’s comments on the report from the Office of the Director General (DG) of the ICC, which flagged “unfair and discriminatory practices” by the search engine.

Google’s lawyers and executives will have an equal opportunity to present their case and respond to the allegations, the person said.

The DG’s office, which handles competition investigations, had submitted its initial report to the ICC in March, alleging that key criteria in its payment policy did not relate to its own app but to app developers.

In an email response, the Google spokesperson said, “We recently launched a pilot to allow a small number of participating developers to offer an additional billing option alongside Google Play’s billing system. , starting with Spotify.

We will continue to work with the ICC and demonstrate that our practices benefit Indian consumers and developers. »

“The Google Play billing system provides consumers with an easy and secure way to transact. We charge service fees for the extensive services we offer on Google Play: less than 3% of our developers worldwide pay service fee, 99% of which are eligible to pay 15% or less,” the spokesperson added.

The CCI began investigating the case following complaints in 2020 and 2021 alleging the digital giant abused its dominant position to push its integrated payment system.

The controversy started when Google made it mandatory for app developers to use its billing system. However, after facing outrage from app developers, it delayed the implementation to March 2022 and now to October.

History so far

  • Google announces new payment policy for in-app purchases in September 2020
  • CCI launches investigation following complaints against payment policy
  • Companies postpone implementation in India to March 2022, and now to October 31
  • DG submits findings of investigation alleging discriminatory practices

Lance B. Holton