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CCI asks Google to share policies on data sharing, in-app billing

Move based on complaints that tech giant failed to comply with directive on third-party billing

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Photo: Reuters

Sourabh Lele New Delhi

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The Competition Commission of India (CCI) on Friday launched an inquiry into Google’s alleged non-compliance with its October 2022 directives asking the tech giant to allow app developers to offer third-party billing for in-app purchases and subscriptions, sources said.

Additionally, the CCI has also ordered the company to provide details of its formal processes or internal policies regarding sharing of data generated or provided by users or app developers. The tech giant has been asked to submit the details to the CCI within four weeks.

The CCI had in October 2022 directed Google to make significant changes to its Play Store policies after it found several anti-competitive practices on the platform. The competition watchdog also ordered Google to allow app developers to use any third-party billing or payment processing services for purchasing apps, as well as in-app purchases.

Google started acting on the order in January after the Supreme Court refused to grant interim relief in the matter. However, app developers were aggrieved by Google’s policy to charge 11-26 per cent service fees on payments made through an alternative billing system.

According to the CCI notice, the Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF) and the American online dating platform Match Group filed separate appeals against the service fees with the CCI. ADIF also raised the issue in the Delhi High Court after raising the alleged non-compliance with CCI in three applications sent in January and March. The Delhi High Court directed the CCI to take up applications filed by start-ups challenging the new billing policy.

Google in its submission to the CCI said the company had complied with the regulator’s order and allowed non-gaming app developers the choice of billing system for users located in India.

“However, based on the submissions made by Google... [in] the compliance report and the payment policy as accessed from public domain, it appears that anti-steering provisions continue to be part of the payment policy of Google. Accordingly, Google is directed to clarify the same,” says the CCI’s latest notice to Google.

It says based on the submission of Google, “it appears that [User Choice Billing] has been extended on a selective basis and the same has not been extended for gaming applications. In this regard, Google is required to clarify whether all app developers have been allowed the option of third-party billing/ payment processing services. Specifically, in relation to gaming applications, Google is directed to clarify as to the date on which Google allowed the option of third-party billing/ payment processing services either for in-app purchases or for purchasing apps.”

In the letter, the CCI says it believes an inquiry needs to be conducted into the compliance with the October order. 

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First Published: May 12 2023 | 8:35 PM IST

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