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Google has faced a strong backlash from Indian startups over the past two weeks after it issued a clarification for the already existing Play Billing policy in India.

Startups to move CCI against Google

Firms complain to antitrust watchdog about tech giant’s ‘arbitrary’ policies

A group of 15 startup founders held a virtual meeting with the Competition Commission of India (CCI) on Saturday to apprise the regulator about Google’s anti-competitive policies in India, two founders aware of the meeting said.

The discussion involved Google’s recent imposition of its Play Store billing system on Indian developers, as well as the 30% commission the company charges for selling digital goods and services through the system, they said on the condition of anonymity.

A group of 15 startup founders held a virtual meeting with the Competition Commission of India (CCI) on Saturday to apprise the regulator about Google’s anti-competitive policies in India, two founders aware of the meeting said.

The discussion involved Google’s recent imposition of its Play Store billing system on Indian developers, as well as the 30% commission the company charges for selling digital goods and services through the system, they said on the condition of anonymity.

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The founders said that phones with Google’s Android operating system (OS) are preloaded with the Play Store app distribution platform, giving it an inherent advantage over rivals.

Because of its dominance in app discovery and distribution, Google forces Indian developers to build and change apps based on its OS and app store, they alleged, adding that the company’s “arbitrary policies" illustrate this behaviour.

“With more than 95% of India’s digital population accessing the Internet through Google, this strategy of having an OS and Play Store, together gives Google an advantage over other app stores and operating systems. Hence, we have requested them to look into this matter," said one of the founders present at the meeting.

The founders are now planning to send a written communication to both the ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY) as well as the CCI, this week after collating views from the industry. The startup ecosystem will send a single letter to both the government and CCI, the founder said.

Last week, Mint reported that 120 Indian startup founders were looking to form an independent non-profit lobby to take on Google in India.

In an interview on Friday, Murugavel Janakiraman, founder of Matrimony.com, said the companies are looking at “all possibilities", including approaching the CCI and the government.

He could not be reached for comment after the Saturday meeting.

An email sent to Google did not elicit a response.

If the startups file a case against Google with the CCI, it will be the fifth such case Google faces in India.

Two independent lawyers filed an antitrust case against Google last week for abusing its dominance in AndroidTV, while the regulator is also looking into two other antitrust suits against the company.

In 2018, it had fined Google 136 crore for abusing its dominance in search.

Google has faced a strong backlash from Indian startups over the past two weeks after it issued a clarification for the already existing Play Billing policy in India.

While the company hasn’t rolled back the 30% commission it charges for sales through the Play Store, it has given Indian startups six more months than global to comply with this policy.

Additionally, Google has also been arranging meetings with developers and startup founders to listen to their concerns and has said that it will do policy workshops with companies as well.

tarush.b@livemint.com

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