Clipped from: https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/info-tech/google-play-store-case-delhi-hc-directs-cci-to-decide-on-start-ups-plea-by-april-26/article66773285.ece
Question of examining the need to invoke ‘doctrine of necessity’ does not arise in this case, rules Justice Tushar Rao Gedela
In what is being seen as a relief to digital start-ups, the Delhi High Court, on Monday, directed the Competition Commission of India (CCI) to take up before April 26 the three applications filed by the Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF) with the competition watchdog against the tech giant in the Google Play Store case.
Single Judge Tushar Rao Gedela also ruled that the question of examining the need to invoke the ‘doctrine of necessity’ doesn’t arise in this case as none of the Senior Counsel appearing for the CCI, Google and US-based Match Group submitted that the members who presently comprise the CCI are disqualified for any reason.
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ADIF had sought direction from Delhi High Court to the CCI to invoke ‘Doctrine of Necessity’ to take up the three applications filed by it seeking initiation of non-compliance proceedings against Google. Put simply, ADIF wanted CCI to take action against Google for contravening the CCI order of October 25 last year in the Google Play Store case.
ADIF had also sought Delhi High Court’s direction to Google to keep its proposed User Choice Billing (UCB) system — which will kick in from April 26–in abeyance till CCI completes investigation of their complaint over the tech giant’s non compliance with the competition watchdog’s ruling.
However, Justice Tushar Rao Gedela on Monday did not pass any stay on the implementation of UCB from April 26, but directed CCI to consider the applications of ADIF in accordance with law by this date.
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ADIF’s applications were filed before CCI seeking interim relief under Section 42 of the Competition Act which gives power to the Commission to pass an order against a party for contravening its orders.
“There is no impediment, legal or otherwise, in directing the CCI to take up the applications under section 42 of the Act as filed by the petitioner for hearing and considering the same in accordance with law on or before April 26, 2023.
“It is made clear that observations made herein are only to the extent of deciding the present lis before this court and shall not tantamount to any expression on the merits of the case and the same is therefore without prejudice to the rights and contentions of all parties to be taken at the appropriate proceeding,” Justice Gedela said in his 38-page order issued on Monday.
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ADIF was aggrieved over CCI’s inaction — due to lack of quorum—to decide on its three applications seeking interim relief against the Google’s new User Choice Billing (UCB) policy, which is set to come into force from April 26 this year.
ADIF contended that Google’s UCB policy was mere cloak of tech giant’s existing version of Google Play Billing System (GPBS) and that Google was providing a “hoax of giving liberty to app developers to opt for third party payment processors”.
Google has already announced intent to implement UCB system in India from April 26 this year wherein developers would be allowed to use third party billing system besides the Google Play Billing System. ADIF is opposed to UCB in current form and wants tech giant to put it on hold as Google charging a nearly 30 per cent service fee on app developers (even when third party billing system is used) will prove to be a significant blow to Indian start-up ecosystem.
In its October 25 ruling last year, CCI had then imposed penalty of ₹936 crore on Google for its anti competitive conduct in the Google Play Store policies. To conform with one of the non monetary direction of CCI, Google had announced intent to roll out UCB from April 26 this year. However, domestic digital start-ups were not happy with the pricing aspect of UCB, noting that they would still be required to pay service fee of 26 per cent to Google even when third party payment systems are used by App developers.