Google on Monday filed a writ petition in the Karnataka High Court seeking more time to respond to the Competition Commission of India’s (CCI) queries about its Play Store rules. The company has also requested the Court to, “kindly stay further proceedings in relation to ADIF's (The Alliance of Digital India Foundation) IR (interim) Application before the Commission and also grant a stay of the operation of the Impugned Order.”
In October, ADIF, a body representing local startups, filed a petition before the CCI seeking interim relief from Google’s new Play Store policy—which was earlier supposed to come into effect from March 2022. ADIF had sought relief on the premise that Google’s new policy would restrict certain categories of apps to use only Google Billing System (GBS) for accepting payments. “This would be an issue for app developers because GBS charges 30% commission for all transactions on the Google Play Store, compared to 2% charged by other payment processing systems,” ADIF had said.
Google’s premise, as mentioned in the petition is that “the Commission arbitrarily pre-determined—without analysis or application of judicial mind—that the ADIF IR Application filed against Google required a full imminent hearing despite there being no urgency.”
The CCI had asked Google to file its response by December 31, 2021.
Google in the writ petition has further argued that since the company has already deferred the implementation of the play store rules in India till October 31, 2022, “the impacted developers do not presently need to change any of their current business practices or incur any additional fees on account of the Google Play Billing Clarification.” As a consequence, the ADIF IR Application lacked the urgency that is strictly required for interim relief, the tech major emphasises.
The CCI in its order dated December 14, 2021, had observed that the plea raised by Google to dismiss the interim relief application is “thoroughly misconceived”. The fair-trade regulator noted that “mere deferment of the deadline cannot render the Interim Relief Application as academic…as contended by Google…”
Google has said that the petitioners are filing this writ petition against the failure by the Commission to adhere to its statutory duties and principles of natural justice. “The Commission decided to proceed with a rushed full submission on the ADIF IR Application despite there being no need to prosecute or pursue such an application,” the firm said. It added that the impugned order denies Google the right to determine whether the complainant entities are in fact among the very small percentage of Indian app developers/startups that may be affected by the non-urgent measures that are sought to be restrained (which Google estimates to be less than 1%).
"We have filed a writ in Karnataka High Court regarding the interim relief application in the Google Play probe by the CCI, seeking to move forward in line with established due process principles. We respect the CCI’s investigative process and will continue to engage cooperatively and constructively in the interest of a fair investigation,” Google has said in a statement.
Reluctance on the part of Google to comply with the requirements of the antitrust proceedings in a timely and upfront manner is at odds with the public posturing the company has adopted, alongside their policy revision announcements that the company is making every effort in the interest of the Indian startup ecosystem and fair resolution, the ADIF said. “By adopting delaying tactics and reluctance to share information, Google is serving nothing but their own self-interest,” it added.