Indian startup body moves against "unfair" Google Play Store policy

The Google Play Store application as shown on a smartphone display
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF) has filed a petition with the Competition Commission of India (CCI) seeking interim relief from the tech giant’s Play Store policy, which is set to potentially go into effect in March 2022.

The ADIF is seeking relief on behalf of app developers, claiming that Google’s new policy will restrict certain categories of apps to only use Google Billing System (GBS) for accepting payments. It says this would be an issue as GBS charges 30% commission for all transactions on the Google Play Store, compared to 2% charged by other payment processing systems.

In November 2020, the CCI ordered a probe into Google following a complaint alleging that the big tech firm, through its control of the Play Story and Android operating system, favours Google Pay over its competing apps. The complaint claimed that this amounts to abuse of its dominant position.

The ADIF wants to maintain the current conditions until the ongoing inquiry has been completed. Its petition also states that, apart from the 30% commission being extremely high and unfair, the core issue is the mandatory imposition of the Google Play Billing system and the exclusion of other methods of payment.

“ADIF foresees that barring an order passed by this Hon’ble Commission to maintain status-quo until the completion of the ongoing inquiry, Google shall proceed to enforce its terms on the Play Store, thereby leading to adverse and irreversible consequences on India’s fledgling startup ecosystem,” said Sijo Kuruvilla George, Executive Director of the ADIF.

The startup body added that this gives Google a lot of bargaining power as over 70% of global smartphone users have Android installed on their phones. In India, Android has around 95% market share which ensures that Google Play is pre-installed in around 95% of the mobile devices in the country. The ADIF added that bringing in a mandatory policy of only having one type of billing system would have huge repercussions.

IT Pro has contacted Google for comment.

In September, South Korea’s antitrust regulator fined Google $177 million for blocking customised versions of its Android operating system. The Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) said that Google’s contract terms with device makers amounted to an abuse of its dominant market position and restricted competition in the mobile OS market.

Zach Marzouk

Zach Marzouk is a former ITPro, CloudPro, and ChannelPro staff writer, covering topics like security, privacy, worker rights, and startups, primarily in the Asia Pacific and the US regions. Zach joined ITPro in 2017 where he was introduced to the world of B2B technology as a junior staff writer, before he returned to Argentina in 2018, working in communications and as a copywriter. In 2021, he made his way back to ITPro as a staff writer during the pandemic, before joining the world of freelance in 2022.