The Competition Commission of India (CCI) continues to crack down on anti-market practices by the tech majors in the country.

In a 200-page order on Tuesday, the last from outgoing Chairman Ashok Kumar Gupta, CCI imposed a monetary penalty of ₹936.44 crore and issued a cease and desist order and a series of directions, which will prise open Google’s walled garden “Play Store”.

The penalty has been imposed for abusing dominant position enjoyed by the company’s Play Store in the country.

The penalty of ₹936.44 crore has been computed by applying seven per cent on the average of “relevant turnover” for last three preceding financial years 2018-19, 2019-20 and 2020-21. The average comes out to ₹13,377.65 crore.

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The case was initiated in 2020 based on a piece of information provided by a party that sought anonymity. Subsequently, Match Group Inc and Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF) filed separate cases, which were clubbed with the ongoing investigation. 

The case pertains to Google’s Play Store policies that require App developers to exclusively and mandatorily use Google Play’s Billing System (GPBS) not only for receiving payments for Apps (and other digital products like audio, video, games) distributed/sold through the Google Play Store, but also for certain in-app purchases like purchases made by users of Apps after they have downloaded/ purchased the App from the Play Store. 

Further, app developers cannot, within an app, provide users with a direct link to a webpage containing an alternative payment method or use language that encourages a user to purchase the digital item outside of the app (anti-steering provisions).

In its ruling issued on Tuesday, CCI found Google to be in violation of competition law as mandatory usage of GPBS for paid apps and in-app purchases constitutes an imposition of unfair condition on app developers. 

CCI directed Google to 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 has been further directed not to discriminate or otherwise take any adverse measures against such apps using third party billing/ payment processing services, in any manner. 

CCI also found anti-steering provisions of Google’s policy to be anticompetitive.

Google has also been directed not to restrict app developers from communicating with their users to promote their apps and offerings, in any manner. 

Clipping Android’s wings

In one of its very significant intervention in the digital market, the CCI had last Thursday imposed penalty of ₹1337.76 crore on Google for violation of Competition law and  its anti competitive practices in multiple markets in the android mobile device ecosystem.

Besides the penalty, the CCI came up with ten non monetary directions to bring its conduct in accordance with anti trust law.