The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has formally opened an investigation into Google for allegedly abusing its dominant market position in the country to stifle competition and unfairly promote its UPI payments app, Google Pay. In an official statement released Monday, the antitrust regulator said that its investigation would focus on whether Android devices force users to install Google Pay during the phone setup process and whether Android vendors are forced to pre-install the app on new smartphones.
According to the CCI, the probe was based on a complaint that “Google, through its control over the Play Store and Android Operating System (OS), is favoring Google Pay over other competing apps, to the disadvantage of both i.e. apps facilitating payment through UPI, as well as users. As per the Informant, this amounts to abuse of its dominant position by Google in violation of various provisions (of the Competition Act, 2002)”.
In addition, the CCI is also probing allegations that Google is forcing app developers to use its Play Store billing service that charges a 30% commission on every transaction on its platform. The regulator said that it is of the prima facie view that Google’s actions “amounts to imposition of unfair and discriminatory condition, denial of market access for competing apps of Google Pay and leveraging on the part of Google, in terms of different provisions of Section 4(2) of the Act”.
Following the CCI’s press release, a Google spokesperson claimed that GPay operates in a competitive market and is popular because of its myriad features rather than abuse of monopoly. As for the company’s Play Store billing practices, the spokesperson said: “Play’s billing system is a fundamental part of meeting this user expectation and helps ensure our continued investment in the many important things needed to make developers successful”.