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Google-CCI case: Supreme Court to begin hearing in the matter 30 April

The Supreme Court on Monday said it would commence hearing on 30 April in Google’s challenge to the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal’s (NCLAT) decision upholding the ₹1,338 crore fine levied by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) against Google for antitrust breaches.

Both Google and the CCI have contested the NCLAT’s order on various grounds. Although each party requested four days for presenting their arguments, the case’s commencement was delayed due to the court’s busy schedule with hearings related to constitution benches.

Representing Google, senior lawyer Harish Salve noted that the case introduces new legal questions for the court’s consideration.

In October 2022, the CCI imposed a fine of ₹1,337.76 crore on Google, citing antitrust violations linked to its Android mobile operating system, based on an investigative report and supplementary documents. The CCI had said that Android device manufacturers shouldn’t be forced to pre-install Google’s services and called for equitable access for all market players.

The CCI underscored the obligation of dominant companies like Google to avoid actions that could undermine fair competition. The regulator specifically pointed out how Google’s dominance in online search has restricted market entry for competing applications.

Further, the CCI discovered that Google had abused its dominant position in the Android app store to reinforce its dominance in online general search, thereby contravening competition laws. This finding stemmed from a detailed investigation initiated in April 2019, following user complaints. The probe revealed that Google’s agreements with mobile manufacturers imposed restrictions favouring its services at the expense of competitors.

In March 2023, the NCLAT partially confirmed the CCI’s ruling, upholding the ₹1,338-crore penalty on Google. The appellate tribunal recognized that the CCI’s decision was not influenced by confirmation bias. It acknowledged that Google’s requirement for OEMs to preload the entire suite of Google apps was unfair, yet it overturned some directives of the CCI, which the regulator is challenging in the Supreme Court. Livemint

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