Play Store billing: Competition panel refuses to grant start-ups interim protection

In a setback for startups, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) on Wednesday rejected their interim relief application to restrain Google from collection of fees under the tech giant’s updated payments policy.  

The move comes close on the heels of the competition watchdog on Friday ordering an investigation against Google for excessive pricing on Play Store. CCI had then held that the tech giant’s Users Choice Billing (UCB) payments policy was “prima facie” violative of the Competition Act 2002.

“The Commission is of the view that the informants have failed to meet the necessary criteria for grant of interim relief as propounded by the Supreme Court. The Informants have not been able to project any higher level of prima facie case warranting a positive direction as sought for by the Informants at the interim stage,” said the CCI order. 

“The Informant has also not been able to demonstrate as to how the impugned conduct would result in irreparable harm that cannot be remedied through monetary compensation. The Commission is also not persuaded that balance of convenience lies in favour of the Informants”.

Three informants in separate applications had urged the Commission to restrain Google from collecting any fee for transactions involving paid downloads or in-app purchases on apps offering digital products/ services. 

The competition watchdog had on Friday directed its Director-General (Investigation) to complete the investigation and submit a consolidated report in 60 days, according to the CCI’s 21-page order.

Start-ups have been engaged in a in a four-year-old dispute with the tech giant on the latter’s anti-competitive conduct arising from a dominant position in the Android ecosystem and its App Store Google Play.

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