India’s HC Dismisses Digital Start-Up Body’s Plea Against CCI

India’s HC Dismisses Digital Start-Up Body’s Plea Against CCI
Photo: Andre J Fanthome 19.02.2024 561

Experts said that by not passing an interim order, the CCI has overlooked its own rules that safeguard the interest of parties affected by anti-competitive practices.

The Delhi High Court has dismissed the petitions filed by Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF) and the Indian Broadcasting and Digital Foundation (IBDF) against CCI’s inaction on Google since July 2023. The court said that since CCI is going to hear the pleas against Google on February 21, the petitions have turned invalid.

Recently, ADIF, a body of digital start-ups, and IBDF have gone to the court against CCI who they claim to have been delaying an interim relief to them from the Google’s new billing system – User Choice Billing (UCB) – which asks for hefty commissions from the app developers.

Experts said that by not passing an interim order, the CCI has overlooked its own rules that safeguard the interest of parties affected by anti-competitive practices. For instance, Section 33 of the Competition Act gives power to the watchdog to pass an interim relief if it’s prima facie satisfied with the merits of the application.

Though CCI might still not pass an interim order, affected parties need to make a strong case that if the interim relief is not provided, they can suffer an irreparable loss. ADIF has already made it clear that startups will not be able to recoup losses if CCI fails to act on the plea.

The idea to bring Section 33 was to give relief to the applicants where the probe is going to take time or in relatively-new domains such as digital markets, experts from ADIF and IBDF noted. Last year, CCI reportedly started a digital markets and data unit which aims to specialise in digital markets cases.

In October 2022, CCI required Google to make nearly two dozen changes in its Android and Google Play services. In response to the CCI’s orders, Google introduced UCB last April. Even though UCB allows app developers to use third-party billing system but they need to pay a service fee of 11-26%.

ADIF has claimed that charging this fee is against the CCI orders. In fact, ADIF has said that “Google has failed to comply with most of the remedies suggested by CCI.”

Currently, Google’s Android controls a lion’s share (over 95%) in the mobile operating system market.

Source: Financial Express

digital markets  India 

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