Start-ups are set to challenge the Competition Commission of India’s recent order denying them interim relief during the pendency of their plea challenging tech giant Google’s Play Store payment policies.

The appeals are likely to be filed before the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal in the next few days, sources said.

“Despite CCI finding prima facie contravention against tech giant Google, the competition watchdog had not given any interim protection to start-ups,” they added. 

The Commision had last Wednesday rejected start-ups’ interim relief application for complete restraint on Google from collection of its fees under tech giant’s updated payments policy.  

Probe against Google

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

Three informants in separate applications had urged the Commission to restrain Google from collecting any fee for transactions involving paid downloads or in-app purchases on apps offering digital products / services. 

The applications were filed by, KukuFM and Indian Broadcasting & Digital Foundation (IBDF) and Indian Digital Media Industry Foundation (IDMIF).

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They had alleged that Google Play Store’s payment policies were discriminatory in nature and opposed the excessive fees/commission (up to 26 per cent) levied on the app developers by the tech giant for download of apps and in-app purchases of users. 

Start-ups move SC

Separately, a dozen start-ups had also moved the Supreme Court in appeal against the Madras High Court’s Division Bench order that redirected the start-ups to approach CCI for legal remedy against tech Giant Google’s User Choice Billing policy.

Start-ups contend that Google had violated CCI’s earlier October 25, 2022 order asking the tech giant not to restrict app developers from using third party billing or payment processing services to purchase apps for in-app purchases on Google Play.

As a result of the Google’s alleged discriminatory policies, a limited set of App developers have claimed to bear the burden of huge costs, significantly impacting their profitability, commercial operations and ability to effectively compete with other apps who are not made to bear such costs. 

Google and some domestic start-ups have been fighting it out at various forums after the tech giant unilaterally removed certain apps from Play Store. However, these apps were reinstated by Google on March 5 this year on a “temporary basis”.

Start-ups have been engaged in a four-year-old dispute with the tech giant on the latter’s anti-competitive conduct arising from a dominant position in Android ecosystem and its App Store Google Play.