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Google files petition against CCI in Delhi HC following leak of confidential report

The leaked report pertains to an antitrust investigation of Android OS by India’s competition regulator.

Google on September 23 filed a writ petition in the Delhi High Court seeking redressal around the leaking of a confidential interim fact-finding report submitted by the Director General’s office to the Competition Commission of India (CCI) relating to an ongoing investigation into the company’s Android operating system.

On September 18, Reuters cited this leaked 750-page report to state that CCI found evidence of Google abusing its dominant position.

Why has Google filed a petition?

“[We are] protesting against the breach of confidence which impairs Google’s ability to defend itself and harms Google and its partners,” the company said.

“We are deeply concerned that the Director General’s Report, which contains our confidential information in an ongoing case, was leaked to the media while in the CCI’s custody. Protecting confidential information is fundamental to any governmental investigation, and we are pursuing our legal right to seek redress and prevent any further unlawful disclosures. We cooperated fully and maintained confidentiality throughout the investigative process, and we hope and expect the same level of confidentiality from the institutions we engage with.” — Google spokesperson

Google said that the findings in the report do not reflect the final decision of CCI and that the report is an interim procedural step. The company also said that it is yet to receive or review the leaked report.

What is the CCI investigation about?

According to an order issued by the CCI in April 2019, Google appeared to have misused its dominant position in India by making it harder for phone makers to choose alternative versions of Android (Read the complete order here). The CCI’s order found that Google’s restrictions on manufacturers seemed to amount to the imposition of “unfair conditions” under India’s competition law and called for a wider probe against Google.

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Android currently powers 96 percent of India’s smartphones.

What does the leaked report say?

According to Reuters, the report revealed that CCI found Google to be using its “huge financial muscle” to illegally hurt competitors.

The report found that the mandatory pre-installation of apps “amounts to imposition of unfair condition on the device manufacturers” and that Play Store policies were “one-sided, ambiguous, vague, biased and arbitrary”, both in violation of India’s competition law, Reuters said.

Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Samsung, and Xiaomi were among the 62 entities which submitted responses to CCI regarding the investigation. Google submitted a total of 24 responses to defend itself, the report added.

CCI’s other investigations into Google

Investigation into Play Store and Google Pay: In November 2020, CCI ordered a detailed investigation into Google’s payment policies and alleged manipulation within Play Store. The Commission said that there was prima facie evidence that Google may be abusing its dominant position in India, with regards to Play Store’s exclusivity and Google Pay services. The CCI ordered an investigation into these aspects of Google’s practices:

  • High commissions
  • Exclusivity regarding the choice of payment systems for app purchases
  • Preference to Google Pay for payments

Investigation into Android TV OS: In June 2021, CCI ordered an investigation into Google over its Android TV operating system (OS) used in smart TVs after receiving a complaint that Google is abusing its dominant position and entering into anti-competitive agreements with smart TV manufacturers like Xiaomi and TCL. The complaint argues that Google’s agreements prevent manufacturers from developing forked Android versions and deny market access, inducing access to Play Store, for those who develop forked versions.

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