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Billing policy: Google files appeal against single-judge order of Delhi HC

Group representing digital start-ups says tech giant's system charges high service fee, is contrary to CCI's orders

Delhi High Court

Delhi High Court

Bhavini Mishra New Delhi

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Google filed on Tuesday an appeal in the Delhi High Court against a single-judge order directing the Competition Commission of India (CCI) to deal with applications filed by the Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF) against the tech giant's billing policy.

The High Court had on Monday asked the CCI to decide the plea by the Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF) against Google's billing policy on or before April 26.

The ADIF, which represents a group of digital start-ups, has filed a petition to suspend Google's new in-app billing fee system, called the User Choice Billing (UCB), until the CCI investigates the tech giant for alleged non-compliance with its directives. The ADIF had alleged that despite the regulator’s directive asking the tech giant to allow the use of third-party billing services for in-app payments, the UCB system charges a high service fee.

Google plans implementing UCB from April 26.

Sandeep Sethi, the senior advocate appearing for Google, requested the matter to be listed on Tuesday but the court refused. “The order(single judge) was passed yesterday. It is scheduled at CCI today at 2:30 pm and the decision has to be taken today. But the CCI lacks a quorum," Sethi said.

Meanwhile, the lawyer for ADIF said the CCI is set to hear the matter today at 2:30 pm. ADIF moved the High Court earlier this month saying that the anti-trust regulator had failed to act on its application about the new payment policy of Google due to a lack of quorum. Under the Competition Act, the quorum for CCI meetings requires at least three members to be present.

The CCI, in October last year, imposed a penalty of Rs 936 crore on Google and asked it to allow and not restrict app developers from using any third-party billing services and to not impose any discriminatory condition.

The group of startups said their grievance was that the anti-trust regulator had failed to act on its plea about the new policy owing to a lack of quorum to consider the issue.

The court on Monday ruled that any vacancy or defect in the constitution of CCI would not invalidate any proceedings as far as its adjudicatory powers are concerned. “Any interpretation, other than the aforesaid, would render the provisions of Section 15(Vacancy not to invalidate proceedings of Commission) otiose and which could not possibly be the intention of the Legislature either," the court said.

Google’s plea was mentioned before a High Court bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad.

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First Published: Apr 25 2023 | 11:37 PM IST

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