Play Store policies: NCLAT to start hearing Google's appeal against ₹936 crore penalty from November 28

The NCLAT had denied interim relief to Google in January; the Tribunal has now said that it may hold day-to-day hearing in the case.
CCI, Google
CCI, Google

The National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) will start hearing from November 28 Google’s appeal against Competition Commission of India (CCI) decision to impose a penalty of ₹936.44 crore on it for alleged abuse of its dominant position with respect to Google Play Store policies [Alphabet Inc & Ors v Competition Commission of India & Ors].

A Bench of NCLAT Chairperson Justice Ashok Bhushan and member (technical) Dr Alok Srivastava said that if required, hearing may continue on day-to-day basis.

“Four weeks time is allowed to file a reply, if any. Further two weeks is allowed to file rejoinder. List this appeal on 28th November, 2023 at 02:00 PM. Both the parties are permitted to file a common convenience compilation, in the meantime. If it requires, hearing may continue day to day,” the NCLAT ordered.

On January 11, 2023, the NCLAT had denied interim relief to Google.

Based on its assessment, the CCI had found Google to be abusing its dominant position in the relevant markets of licensable operating systems (OS) for smart mobile devices and app stores for Android smart mobile OS in India.

In an order passed on October 25, 2022, the CCI had also directed Google to cease and desist from participating in anti-competitive practices and to modify its conduct within a defined timeline. It had thus passed the following directions to Google:

1) Google shall allow, and not restrict app developers from using any third-party billing payment processing services, either for in-app purchases or for purchasing apps;

2) Google shall not impose any anti-steering provisions on app developers and shall not restrict them from communicating with their users to promote their apps and offerings, in any manner;

3) Google shall not restrict end users, in any manner, to access and use within apps, the features and services offered by app developers;

4) Google shall set out a clear and transparent policy on data that is collected on its platform, use of such data by the platform and also the potential and actual sharing of such data with app developers or other entities, including related entities;

5) The competitively relevant transaction/consumer data of apps generated and acquired through GPBS, shall not be leveraged by Google to further its competitive advantage;

6) Google shall not impose any condition (including price related condition) on app developers, which is unfair, unreasonable, discriminatory or disproportionate to the services provided to the app developers;

7) Google shall ensure complete transparency in communicating to app developers, services provided, and corresponding fee charged and shall also publish in an unambiguous manner the payment policy and criteria for applicability of the fee(s);

8) Google shall not discriminate against other apps facilitating payment through UPI in India vis-à-vis its own UPI app, in any manner.

Before the NCLAT, Google argued that the Commission’s directions put in peril technology, security and the choice that Play Store provides. According to the company, the CCI failed to consider the benefits of Google Play and Android to Indian end-users, including benefits such as enabling mobile access as well as protecting end-users from malware and abusive billing practices.

Senior Advocate Gopal Jain along with advocates Avaantika Kokkar, Deeksha M, Ruchi Verma, and Tarun D appeared for Google.

Additional Solicitor General N Venkataraman with advocates Samar Bansal, Manu Chaturvedi, V Chandrasekara Bharathi, Shruti Shiv Kumar, Amritha Chandramali, Rahul Vijay K, Shivshankar G, Abhimita Goswami and Shama Nargis represented the CCI.

Read a detailed story on CCI's order imposing penalty on Alphabet for its Play Store policies here.

[Read Order]

Alphabet Inc & Ors v Competition Commission of India & Ors.pdf
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