In a new twist to the ongoing battle between domestic digital start-ups and Google over the latter’s proposed User Choice Billing (UCB) policy, the Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF) has moved Delhi High Court seeking an order to hold that CCI can validly invoke “doctrine of necessity” in the Google App Store policy case for initiating non-compliance proceedings against the tech giant.

Delhi High Court has also been urged to direct CCI to take up “timely adjudication” of the interim relief applications filed by ADIF, which had complained to the competition watchdog about non-effective compliance by Google of the CCI’s final order of October 25 last year in the Google play store policies case.

Invoking ‘doctrine of necessity’ enables regulators to carry out essential regulatory functions.

Knocking doors

ADIF, a think tank of digital start-ups, has also urged the Delhi High Court to pass an order to keep UCB’s implementation in abeyance till the adjudication by the CCI. It also wants Delhi High Court to pass an order/direction that —pending adjudication by the CCI of ADIF’s application— Google be asked to maintain the status quo: i.e, no commission is to be charged when transactions happen via other payment processors mode (non Google Play Billing System (GBPS) mode) as it exists now.

This ADIF move to knock on the doors of Delhi High Court is significant as Google is looking to implement its UCB policy from April 26.

ADIF now contends that under UCB, Google would effectively charge 11-26 per cent Commission in addition to what app developers will have to pay to other payment processors (1-4 per cent). This would mean App developers are no way better off (from earlier 15/30 per cent Commission regime) if UCB is introduced and this pricing would even make their operations unviable.  

Google is only trying to camouflage a concession of 4 per cent from the Commission levied by it for a non-UCB transaction with effect from April 26, ADIF has said in its petition before Delhi High Court.

‘Complete dereliction’

In the absence of quorum, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) had refrained from considering the three separate complaints filed by ADIF against Google for non-compliance of the CCI’s order in Google Play Store case. ADIF has now in its petition before Delhi High Court said that CCI be directed to use “doctrine of necessity” even in anti trust matters just as the competition watchdog has now invoked it for approving M&A deals.

In the Play store policies case, the CCI had on October 25, 2022— five days after its ruling in the Android matter—imposed a monetary penalty of ₹936.44 crore on Google and issued a cease and desist order besides series of directions, which will prise open Google’s walled garden “Play Store.”

Meanwhile, ADIF has contended in its petition before Delhi High Court that the introduction of UCB is in “complete dereliction” of the CCI order and remedy given by the competition watchdog.

In its October 25 ruling, 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.