In two significant orders, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) imposed two back-to-back fines on big tech Google over alleged unfair trade practices and abusing its dominant position in the market.
One fine of Rs 936.44 crore was slapped on 25 October 2022 by the CCI, which said the US tech giant abused its dominant position with respect to its Play Store policies, apart from issuing a cease-and-desist order. The commission also directed Google to modify its conduct within a defined timeline.
A few days ago, on 20 October, the CCI had imposed another penalty of Rs 1337.76 crore on Google for abusing its position in multiple markets in the Android Mobile device ecosystem and asked it to make amends.
The total penalty now stands at Rs 2,274 crore.
According to Google’s Play Store policies, app developers must exclusively use Google Play’s Billing System (GPBS) to accept payments for apps distributed or sold through the Google Play Store and for some in-app purchases. The CCI said Google must allow, and not restrict app developers from using any third-party billing/ payment processing services, either for in-app purchases or for purchasing apps.
Google shall not discriminate or take any adverse measures against such apps using third-party billing/ payment processing services, in any manner, the CCI said in its order, which the Indian Printer and Publisher has seen.
The CCI also said Google will not discriminate against other apps facilitating payment through UPI in India vis-à-vis its own UPI app, in any manner.
After the fine by the CCI on 20 October, Google had said that the penalty was “a major setback for Indian consumers and businesses” and that the firm would review the decision to evaluate the next steps, NDTV reported.
Google has been in the news recently after Indian publishers accused it of forcing them to accept unfair conditions.
In a legal hassle
On October 6, the CCI had ordered a detailed probe on a complaint filed by the News Broadcasters & Digital Association. The probe was combined with two other similar ongoing inquiries against the search engine major.
The association had claimed its members are forced to provide news content to Google in order to prioritize their weblinks in its Search Engine Result Page (SERP). They said the search engine gets their content for free but does not give them adequate compensation, news agency PTI had reported.
The association alleged Google exploited the dependency of the publishers on the search engine to build services such as Google News, Google Discover and Google Accelerated Mobile Pages. Earlier this year, the Digital News Publishers Association (DNPA) and the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) had filed two separate complaints that were clubbed together by the CCI.
The Indian news publishers, both print and digital, had been calling for action against Google for allegedly imposing unfair terms on them and abusing its dominant position, The Indian Printer and Publisher had earlier reported.The DNPA comprises the digital platforms of some of the leading Indian newspapers and media groups, and includes platforms such as Eenadu, Malayalam Manorama, Bennett Coleman, Indian Express, NDTV, India Today, and the ABP group.
The government of India is also mulling over regulatory interventions to force giants such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, Twitter, and Apple to pay Indian news publishers, both print and digital, a part of their revenue for using their original content, the minister of state for electronics and information technology, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, had indicated last month.
The minister has noted that the market power of digital advertising is being consolidated in the hands of only a few Big Tech majors, leaving Indian media companies and many original content creators at a disadvantage.
Google has already been compelled by the competition commissions of the governments of Australia, France, and Germany to come up with a fairer way of sharing revenues with news publishers. In addition, the Competition Commission in France has levied a fine of 500 million Euros on Google, which has been recently confirmed by the country’s courts.
Australia was one of the first countries to come up with a new law requiring platforms such as Facebook and Google to pay local news publishers to link their content on their news feeds or search results. The agreement was forced by the government as Google and Facebook declined to amicably negotiate with the news publishers.
In fact, there has been an increased clamor and action against the Big Tech with many countries imposing fines in the form of millions of dollars or launching probes over their alleged monopolistic practices and privacy law violations.