The Supreme Court on Friday denied any interim protection to digital startups that had challenged Google’s app billing policy. The startups now face an imminent delisting of their apps from the Google Play Store.

While refusing to pass an interim order protecting the start-ups, the apex court agreed to hear their pleas challenging a Madras HC order that upheld Google’s User Choice Billing (UCB) Policy, which came into effect in India on April 26.

protection lapsed

The three-week interim protection granted last month by the Madras High Court to these start-ups against being delisted from the Google Play Store has now lapsed.

The three-member SC Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud on Friday directed that notices be issued (to Google) on the matter.

The absence of relief from the apex court would mean that Google can remove the apps of these start-ups if they are not in agreement with Google’s billing policy. Domestic start-ups had opposed the UCB policy, contending that the ‘Lagaan’ type service fee of up to 26 per cent for the download of paid apps and in-app purchases on the Google Play Store was not acceptable to them.

In fact, start-ups have appealed for a cap of 4 per cent service fee for the use of Google’s billing system.

Around a dozen start-ups had filed Special Leave Petitions (SLPs) before the Supreme Court in appeal against the Madras High Court order of January 19, 2024.

On Friday, Mukul Rohatgi, former Attorney General of India Balbir Singh, senior advocate, appeared in the Supreme Court for start-ups, while Google was represented by senior advocate Harish Salve.

Rohatgi urged the three-member SC Bench to protect the start-ups’ till the case is disposed of as they are too small and pointed out that Android accounted for 97 percent share of the Indian market.

Last month, Madras HC Division Bench dismissed the start-ups’ appeal while re-directing their plea to the Competition Commission of India (CCI).

Some prominent start-ups involved in the appeal before Madras HC against Google’s UCB Policy include Bharat Matrimony,, Kuku FM, TrulyMadly and QuackQuack, among others.‘

A single judge of the Madras High Court dismissed petitions by 14 startups against Google’s UCB in August 2023 and said the issue fell in the ambit of the Competition Commission of India (CCI).

The startups then appealed this single-judge order before a division bench. After the dismissal of the appeal by the Division Bench, the start-ups approached the Supreme Court.