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Google approaches Supreme Court In CCI case

Tech major Google approached the Supreme Court on Saturday after it failed to get relief at the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal.

Google has sought a stay on the NCLAT order, which directed it to pay 10% of the penalty imposed by the competition regulator. The appellate tribunal had also denied Google relief on the directions given by the Competition Commission of India in its October 2022 order.

Besides seeking relief on the penalty and CCI’s directions that will change the way Google does business with smartphone manufacturers, the tech major is seeking to raise another issue in the ongoing litigation. That the three parties who are seeking to be impleaded in the matter should not be heard.

PhonePe-owned OS Labs, Alliance of Digital India Foundation, and MapmyIndia have filed applications before the NCLAT supporting CCI’s view.

As per the law, parties aggrieved by a CCI order can be impleaded by the NCLAT, Dhanendra Kumar, former chairman of CCI, told BQ Prime.

“Google may not want that to happen on the grounds that the litigation will get prolonged, new arguments may come up, or that these parties are not adversely affected by the regulator’s order,” he said. “The appellate tribunal will have the discretion to allow the applications on grounds of principles of natural justice”.

Two other parties—Micromax and Karbonn Mobiles—have sought to be heard as well. Both are supporting Google’s appeal insofar as the regulator’s directions to the tech major will increase their business costs.

To elaborate, along with a Rs 1,337 crore penalty in its October 2022 order, the CCI had given Google three months to fix its agreements that were found to be anti-competitive.

Specifically, to ensure:

  • OEMs can choose from Google’s proprietary applications to be pre-installed. They should not be forced to pre-install a bouquet of applications and can decide the placement of pre-installed apps on their smart devices.
  • The licencing of the Play Store shall not be linked with the requirement of pre-installing Google search services, Chrome browser, YouTube, Google Maps, Gmail, or any other application of Google.
  • Google shall not deny access to its Play Services APIs to disadvantage OEMs, app developers, and its existing or potential competitors.
  • It cannot offer any monetary, or other incentives to OEMs for ensuring exclusivity for its search services.
  • Google shall not impose anti-fragmentation obligations on OEMs.

Jan 19 is the deadline for Google to amend its agreements with OEMs. In its plea before the NCLAT, it contended that the CCI had failed to conduct an “impartial, balanced, and legally sound investigation”, and had ignored evidence from Indian users, app developers, and OEMs. It called the regulator’s findings “patently erroneous”, which ignore the reality of competition in India, Google’s pro-competitive business model, and the benefits created for all stakeholders.

The date for the hearing before the apex court has not been decided yet. Bloomberg

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