CCI order on mobile app distribution agreement ‘unfair’, Google submits to NCLAT

A two-member NCLAT bench headed by Chairperson Justice Ashok Bhushan on Friday said it will start day-to-day hearing of the matter from February 23, the next date of hearing.

Livemint (with inputs from PTI)
Updated17 Feb 2023
FILE - The Google logo. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)
FILE - The Google logo. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)(AP)

Tech giant Google on 17 February, while arguing its matter before the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT), submitted that there was 'unfair imposition' by the competition watchdog CCI over its mobile app distribution agreement with device makers as it does not restrict from installing other apps.

Headed by Chairperson Justice Ashok Bhushan, a two-member NCLAT bench, said it will start day-to-day hearing of the matter from February 23, the next date of hearing.

Google said that the placement of its apps on devices through pre-installation under MADA (Mobile Application Distribution Agreement) is not "unfair" as there is no restriction from installing other apps and enough space is available for them.

ALSO READ: Google India fires 453 employees across various departments: Report

The NCLAT was hearing a plea filed by Google against 1,337 crore penalty imposed by the fair trade regulator CCI for allegedly abusing its dominant position in relation to Android mobile devices.

OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), under MADA, are required to have Google Mobile Suite (GMS) while installing the Android OS of Google. This cannot be uninstalled.

Representing the global IT major, senior Advocate Arun Kathpalia said its apps which are merely pre-installed "does not translate into dominance".

There is no embargo on pre-installation on other apps and android users can download apps like WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter etc from its Play Store as per their choice. In 2021, 26 billion downloads of apps were recorded.

Moreover, contrary to this, OEMs are also happy with GMS as they said these apps make their products more sellable, Kathpalia added.

"Where is the harm to the OEM and users in this?," he said adding CCI's order reflects "unfairness".

Kathpalia said that Google is not charging any royalty and is ensuring a healthy ecosystem. He further said Google does not has a closed system like Apple.

"There is huge competition within the Android ecosystem," he added.

Earlier on 20 October, 2022, CCI slapped a penalty of 1,337.76 crore on Google for anti-competitive practices in relation to Android mobile devices. It ordered the internet major to cease and desist from various unfair business practices.

Following a direction of the Supreme Court, NCLAT had started its hearing in the Android matter on February 15. The apex court had directed NCLAT to decide the appeal by March 31.

On 4 January, a a separate bench of NCLAT had issued notice over Google's plea, directing it to pay 10 per cent of the 1,337 crore penalty imposed by the CCI. It had declined to stay the CCI order and put the matter for a final hearing on April 3, 2023.

This was challenged by Google before the Supreme Court, which also declined to stay the CCI order but directed the NCLAT to decide on Google’s appeal by March 31.

With agency inputs.

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