A Supreme Court Bench headed by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, on Monday, dismissed the appeal filed by Google against NCLAT’s January 11 order, allowing the tech giant to withdraw the appeal.

When the matter was called for hearing at the apex court on Monday, the appeal was without making any arguments dismissed as withdrawn by the Court. Google had earlier submitted an application for withdrawing this appeal.

The result of the said dismissal by the Supreme Court means that there shall be no stay on the directions of the CCI pending the final hearing of Google’s appeal before NCLAT, and Google would be bound to comply with the same, said sources.

It maybe recalled that Google had filed an appeal before SC against a NCLAT decision of January 11 this year denying interim relief to the big tech in the form of a stay on the remedial directions issued by the CCI in its October 25 ruling in the Google Play Store policy case. This case also saw the competition watchdog impose ₹936-crore penalty on Google for its anti-competitive conduct in Google Play Store Policy.

Final hearing

Meanwhile, the final hearing in the Google Play Store policy case came up before the NCLAT Competition Bench on Monday. However, it was decided that this matter will be heard by a new Bench to be decided by the NCLAT President. Even in the Google Android ruling, the matter first went to NCLAT Competition Bench, and later shifted to Bench headed by its President Ashok Bhushan, said sources.

The Play Store policy case is the second, with the first being Android matter, which saw the competition watchdog imposing monetary penalty, besides issuing non monetary directions on tech giant for its anti-competitor conduct. 

Following the CCI ruling of October 25 last year in the Google Play Store policy case, the tech giant now proposes to from April 26 this year introduce a user choice billing (UCB) policy that would allow app developers to use third-party billing system. However, domestic start-ups are still opposed to this as Google would even after UCB continue to charge hefty commission/service fee —15-26 per cent —on app developers when a third-party billing system is used, making it unviable for several developers to distribute their Apps through Play Store. 

Also read: The case against Google ‘Lagaan’

Domestic digital start-ups have recently moved Delhi High Court seeking direction to CCI to invoke the doctrine of necessity to proceed against Google on the complaint filed by the Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF), a policy think tank of digital start-ups.

The ADIF case is slated to be taken up by Delhi High Court Single Judge Tushar Rao Gadela, sources said. Last week Delhi High Court Single Judge Pratibha Singh had recused herself from hearing the ADIF petition against CCI and Google.

The Google Play Store policy 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, and 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, 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 anti-competitive. Google had also been directed not to restrict app developers from communicating with their users to promote their apps and offerings, in any manner.