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Google Play Store Billing Policies Verdict From CCI Soon: Report

Google Play Store Billing Policies Verdict From CCI Soon: Report

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • CCI has been taking depositions from a variety of parties, including the ADIF, Match Group, and several other Indian businesses.
  • In 2020, Google implemented a 30% commission for all Play Store transactions, a decision that received widespread criticism.
  • Last week, Google launched the user choice charging trial project in India and several other countries.

As the investigation nears its conclusion, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) is prepared to issue a ruling over Google’s Play Store policies. A report claims that CCI has been taking depositions from a variety of parties, including the Alliance of Digital India Federation (ADIF), Match Group, and several other Indian businesses.

In an effort to gather details, CCI has also called Google officials for depositions.

According to reports, the competition watchdog in India is nearly finished looking into the Play Store practices of the search engine Google.

The implementation of a 30% commission by Google for all Play Store transactions in 2020 drew harsh criticism from stakeholders everywhere, especially in India, where it was viewed as monopolistic and restricting competition.

The CCI started looking into the commission’s angle and whether Google prevented competitors from making payments through its billing system.

A number of Indian app firms, including the Alliance of Digital India Federation (ADIF), Match Group, the owner of popular dating websites like Tinder, and other stakeholders, have submitted statements to the Competition Commission of India (CCI).

Google play store

Additionally, CCI has called Google‘s executives for depositions and requested information from them.

According to the sources, the most recent hearing, which was probably the last one before a decision, saw CCI request final submissions from all parties.

A person with knowledge of the development spoke to ET on the condition of anonymity and said, “This was meant to be the last hearing and I expect they will stick to that timeline.”

“Time has been given for Parties to submit their final submissions. Google requested a postponement, but the (CCI) Chairman refused. The CCI was adamant that they were headed in the right direction.”

Google didn’t reply to ET’s emails until after Sunday’s press deadline.

The business said last week that the next stage of its user choice billing trial project would begin and that one of the markets where customers might use the service in India.

According to the release, all non-gaming developers are eligible to sign up for the pilot and provide customers with choice billing. The corporation also stated that incentives would be provided to the pilot’s participants.

Beginning on October 31 in India, Google’s new commission structure will be in effect. Additionally, as of June, it is in effect globally.

Google must receive the necessary service fees from developers. The service cost the developer pays will be decreased by 4% when a customer opts to utilize an alternate paying method, the technology pioneer wrote in a blog post on Friday.

According to those with knowledge of the situation, CCI wants to make the final report public before Google’s policy takes effect in October.

After coming under strong scrutiny for its app store policies, Google had extended the deadline for app developers to integrate with its Play payment system in India by seven months, to October 31.

According to the individual who was previously quoted, the anti-monopolies regulator has carefully reviewed what has occurred in South Korea and the Netherlands and intends to be outspoken in their regulatory approach.

In South Korea, it was against the law to “promote a particular payment system to a provider of mobile content.” At the same time, Apple was fined $55 million by the Netherlands for disobeying a directive to permit the use of other payment forms by dating app developers.

Another source stated that given the Chairperson’s impending retirement in October, it was likely that the CCI would want to render its decision quickly.

The source stated that because the chairperson is retiring and a quorum of three members is needed to issue an order, “the final orders are anticipated to come relatively soon.”

After the hearing, “I believe the parties will submit written comments to the CCI, and the CCI will then issue final orders,” As the hearings have already taken place, it is anticipated that the decision will be made on or before the date of his retirement.

In 2018, Ashok Kumar Gupta was chosen to lead the CCI for a term that would end when he turned 65 on October 25, 2022.

Expanding the third-party in-App pricing pilot to India through CCI’s connection to Google?

Google play store

Google’s action may have been motivated by the need to persuade CCI to be forgiving in an upcoming ruling.

It is widely believed that Internet search engine Google’s decision to provide a third-party billing option to its play store, albeit on a trial basis, was made to lessen the impact of the Competition Commission of India’s approaching decision (CCI).

The timing of the action last Friday, according to specialists in competition law, was a dead giveaway. The CCI concluded its hearing and reserved judgment on the highly publicized Google’s Play Store Billing investigation within 48 hours of Google’s release.

Google’s announcement was regarded by experts as a request for the competition watchdog to be more forgiving.

Irrespective of whether it is a true market correction or a ruse by Google to use it as leverage in the penalty dispute with the Competition Commission, the question is irrelevant, according to a competition law expert.

“People have no idea of the history. The announcement to test a third-party billing system is being viewed casually by many individuals. The key point is that they are about to get an order.”

You may remember that the CCI opened an investigation in November 2020 to look into claims that Google had misused its position of dominance to promote its payment system. The investigation was started by CCI in regard to the requirement that app developers use the Google billing system to charge their users for Play Store and/or in-app purchases.

The CCI held that the required usage of the Play Store’s payment method limits the options open to app developers. The Director General of CCI was instructed to look into the situation and provide a report. The Additional Director of CCI presented findings in March of this year that blamed Google.

In June 2022, the Director General gave the CCI a 13,000-page report that was also given to Google. Google was additionally instructed by CCI to submit any objections to the report by July 7 of this year. Google asked the Karnataka High Court in an effort to extend the timeframe for responding to the investigation report. The High Court gave Google until July 30, 2022, to submit any objections or suggestions to the probe report.

Google had postponed the introduction of its requirement that in-app transactions be made using its payment system until October 2022 in December 2021.

Google play store

Legal experts essentially have three different perspectives on this significant change, one of which suggests that CCI will take a forgiving stance given that Google is sincerely attempting to rectify the market.

According to the second group of viewpoints, Google’s move is just a “pure gimmick,” and it’s uncertain whether the third-party billing mechanism will always be accessible.

The Competition (Amendment) Bill, which was introduced in Lok Sabha on August 5th, aims to incorporate the concept of commitment and settlement. Some see Google’s action as a commitment.

If the Indian Competition Law contained a commitment and settlement clause, Google would have approached the CCI earlier to make a commitment and resolve the matter. Without such a process, the CCI might feel pressured to take a lenient stance and just determine whether they have committed an infringement or not.

In a blog post published on Friday, Google stated that in addition to using its own payment system, non-gaming app developers are now able to use third-party billing systems.

Now, non-gaming app developers can pick the preferred payment processor for their users in India, Australia, Indonesia, Japan, and Europe.

When using a third-party billing system, app developers must offer customer service to their users as well as a procedure for disputing unauthorized transactions. Prior until now, only Google’s billing system was permitted to be used to process payments for both premium apps and the in-app purchases of digital content.

Regardless of the CCI’s eventual ruling, domestic fintech firms are certain to profit from Google’s latest move because they only charge a small portion of what the tech giant charges app developers. In the end, consumers who pay less for their in-app purchases will also profit from this!

Edited by Prakriti Arora

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