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CCI denies interim relief to Shaadi.com, Kuku FM from Google Play billing policy

Indian app developers request for Google Play’s billing policy interim relief has been rejected over no substantial evidence that it is causing irreparable monetary harm to the developers.

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) on March 20 dismissed the interim reliefs sought by app developers from complying with Google Play’s billing policies. Last week, the antitrust watchdog ordered an investigation into Google Play’s new billing policy based on complaints from Shaadi.com, Kuku FM, the Indian Broadcasting and Digital Foundation (IBDF), and the Indian Digital Media Industry Foundation (IDMIF). These entities then requested the Commission to restrain Google from imposing its policies while the investigation is underway, which has now been denied.

Interim relief sought by Shaadi.com and Kuku FM:

  1. Direct Google to not mandate the sharing of any payment-related data if a transaction is processed inside an app through third-party billing systems.
  2. Prohibit Google from levying any fee if a transaction is processed inside an app through third-party billing systems.
  3. Direct Google to keep in abeyance its policy of mandating any guidelines, including UI/UX Guidelines, which dictate user interface or flow.
  4. Direct Google not to delist or hamper the visibility of the apps listed on the Play Store for non-adherence to Google’s billing policy.

Interim relief sought by the Indian Broadcasting and Digital Foundation (IBDF) and the Indian Digital Media Industry Foundation (IDMIF):

  1. Restrain the imposition of any fee for transactions processed through either GPBS or alternative payment processors.
  2. Restrain the collection of any data from app developers. To facilitate any eventual payment by the app developers should the CCI rule in Google’s favour, app developers should collect the data required for the calculation of the fee in the form directed by the Commission.
  3. Direct Google to allow all app developers (whether providing physical or digital products or services on their apps) the ability to provide the same payment option, and to impose no additional conditions.
  4. Direct Google not to de-list any app developer for failure to comply with Google’s billing policy.

Google’s submission to CCI: 

Google told CCI that the granting of the above reliefs “would virtually amount to requiring Google to offer Play for free to developers in India” while the developers continue to charge their users for digital in-app purchases and enjoy the services of Play. It further added that no other court or regulator has passed similar relief despite repeated requests.

CCI’s reasoning for not granting any interim relief: 

  • Based on the submission made by Google, CCI opined that “it is essential to recognize the costs and responsibilities associated with maintaining and operating app stores” and “any measures taken should be proportionate and carefully crafted to minimize unintended consequences and preserve the overall integrity and functionality of the platform ecosystem.” It further added that the complainants were not able to demonstrate a case in their favour for complete restraint on Google from the collection of its fee.
  • The complainants also haven’t been able to demonstrate how complying with Google’s policies would result in irreparable harm that cannot be remedied through monetary compensation.
  • The Commission also noted that there was no clear nexus between the relief sought and the issues under investigation for some of the reliefs sought. For example, the interim reliefs relating to the collection of data, UI/UX interface, etc.

Supreme Court had also denied interim relief to app developers: Apart from the CCI probe, some app developers, including Shaadi.com and Kuku FM, are fighting Google’s billing policy at the Supreme Court. These app developers had sought interim relief from the court last month, but the same was denied.

Shaadi.com and Kuku FM have been granted a delayed payment option by Google:

Google granted the companies challenging it in the Supreme Court, including Shaadi.com and Kuku FM, the option to pay their dues as per the billing policy after the Supreme Court concludes its hearings. They will, however, have to adhere to the Google Play billing policy and keep track of transactions and what they owe Google. This concession was offered after Google initially delisted the apps of these companies for non-compliance but later reinstated them following government intervention. You can read more about this here.

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