Google Play Probe: Karnataka HC Approached by Tech Giant Seeking More Time to Respond to CCI

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Google has filed a writ in the Karnataka High Court seeking more time to reply to Competition Commission’s queries pertaining to a probe into Play Store rules.

Google said it respects the Competition Commission of India’s (CCI) investigative process and “will continue to engage cooperatively and constructively in the interest of a fair investigation”.

“We have filed a writ in Karnataka High Court regarding the interim relief application in the Google Play probe by the CCI, seeking to move forward in line with established due process principles,” Google spokesperson said in an email on Monday.

A source aware of the company’s position on the matter noted that Google has extended the timeline for developers in India to integrate with Play’s billing system to October 31, 2022.

The source also said that Google believes this voluntary extension of the deadline extinguishes the need for the ‘interim injunctive relief’ sought by ADIF (Alliance of Digital India Foundation). Hence, the insistence on extremely tight timelines is concerning as there is no cause for undue haste, the source added.

Google has also made some other ‘procedural’ requests to the CCI with regard to the identity of the complainants (which will help it respond adequately to the complaint) as well as the inclusion of a judicial member in the probe panel.

In the absence of any urgency, Google believes the CCI should observe due process in the interest of a fair and thorough investigation, the source said.

Earlier this month, Google said it was deferring the deadline for developers in India to integrate with its Play billing system from March 2022 to October next year. In October last year, the company announced March 31, 2022, as the deadline for developers in India to integrate with Play’s billing system.

Announcing the extension of the deadline for developers in India to integrate with its Play billing system, Google, on December 10, 2021, said the move was in view of the changes to India’s recurring digital payments guidelines.

“We are extending this to 31st October 2022 to provide developers in India the required product support for recurring payments through convenient user payment systems, including [UPI] and wallets, and also provide them more time in light of the changes to India’s recurring digital payments guidelines,” a Google spokesperson had said.

In the past, Indian developers and startups have raised concerns around Google’s Play billing system, saying the tech giant cannot force Indian app developers/owners to sell digital services by compulsorily using its billing system.

Google had previously stated that apps that choose to sell digital content through its Play Store have to use the Google Play billing system and pay a percentage of the in-app purchase as a fee. It had given time until September 30, 2021, to complete the necessary updates.

However, it had extended the deadline to March 31, 2022, following concerns from the developer community in India. The timeline has now been pushed to October next year.

The tech giant has emphasised that its payments policy is not new and it has always required developers who distribute their apps on Play, to use Google Play’s billing system if they offer in-app purchases of digital goods.

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