Google fined Rs 2,274 crore in two back-to-back orders

CCI says IT giant abused its position in Play Store policies and Android ecosystem

App developers must exclusively use Google Play's Billing System (GPBS) (PC: Unsplash)

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.

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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