The two pleas that have not been rejected so far have been filed by streaming player Disney+ Hotstar and exam preparation app Testbook.
What the court order says
In its order Justice S Sounthar observed that the Competition Act was enacted as a special law to deal with abuse of dominant position by enterprises in the Indian economy. “Special law will prevail over the general law,” Justice Sounthar said. Section 61 of Competition Act expressly barred the jurisdiction of a civil court in respect of the matters which fall within the jurisdiction of the CCI, the judge said.
The court however rejected Google’s contention that the cases should be filed in California. The court noted that “Competition Act enacted by Indian legislature with the sole aim of preventing practices having adverse effect on competition will be of no use (if such a request is entertained). The preamble to Competition Act reads that it is an Act to ensure freedom of trade carried on by participants in the Indian market. Freedom of trade is a fundamental right available to Indian Citizens under Article 19 of the Constitution of India.”
Why these startups had approached the court
The companies had approached the high court after Google asked them to either adopt the company’s mandated billing route or face the risk of being removed from the Play Store. All the startups had filed complaints that Google’s actions are against the Payments and Settlements Act and Contracts Law.
In May this year, Google announced that Google Play’s payments policy is compliant with the Indian watchdog’s order and it is moving ahead with plans to enforce the policy in the South Asian market, weeks after some developers sought to suspend Google’s in-app billing fee system alleging it was not compliant with the watchdog’s directive.
“In 2020, we clarified the requirements of our Payments policy and developers in India have had considerable time to make the necessary changes to their apps. We’re respectfully following the CCI’s October 2022 order, and in compliance with that order, we expanded user choice billing to all developers in India and updated our policy that went into effect starting April 26, 2023,” the company wrote in a blog post.
What the count decision means for these startups
The court decision leaves these companies without the protection of the interim injunction from the court that had prevented Google from delisting their apps from its app store, Google Play. Also, these startups are apprehensive that both authorities (CCI and RBI) will be able to grant appropriate relief where a conjoint reading of all the laws is required.
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