The National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) on Friday admitted the appeals of a clutch of start-ups, including Kuku FM and, against CCI’s recent order denying them interim relief or protection against Google’s harmful conduct in the big tech’s User Choice Billing Policy (UCB). 

The Appellate Tribunal directed Google and the Competition Commission of India (CCI) to file their reply within a week and posted the case for final hearing on May 24. 

The appeals before NCLAT were filed by Kuku FM,, and the Indian Broadcasting and Digital Foundation (IBDF).

Although the app developers (start-ups) on Friday made a request that a mention be made in the order that no precipitative action should be taken in the interim, there was no finality on that front from the Appellate Tribunal. 

With an oral understanding between the parties that no precipitative action would be taken, start-ups can now breathe easy until May 24, which is the date of the final hearing.

Regulatory Compliance

On March 10, the CCI rejected start-ups’ interim relief applications for complete restraint on Google from collection of its fees under the tech giant’s updated payments policy. 

This ruling came on the heels of the competition watchdog ordering an investigation against Google on March 15 for excessive pricing on the Play Store. CCI had then held that the tech giant’s Users Choice Billing (UCB) payments policy was “prima facie” violative of the Competition Act 2002.

The CCI Prima Facie found Google’s UCB to be an abuse of its dominant position and directed the Director General to conduct an investigation. 

The abusive conduct of Google as regards UCB included the service fees charged under UCB being excessive and disproportionate; the unfair pricing model of Google with app developers potentially facing substantial costs; denial of market access; and service fees being arbitrary and discriminatory, among others. 

In March 2024, Google delisted over 100 apps from domestic developers, such as Matrimony,, Kuku FM, and Info Edge (Naukri, 99acres, and Jeevansathi), for not complying with Google’s app billing policy. 

However, a week later, the tech giant temporarily reinstated them on the Play Store in the wake of government intervention.

Google had, in 2023, introduced the UCB system in India as part of its efforts to comply with the CCI’s October 25, 2022, antitrust order. The UCB policy allowed developers to offer an alternate billing system for in-app purchases besides the Google Play’s own billing system.

Transactions under UCB attracted a maximum service fee of 26 percent, which is a 4 percentage point reduction from the earlier rate of 30 percent.