India’s Antitrust Body Orders Probe into Google’s In-App Billing Dispute with Local Startups

India’s antitrust body has initiated a probe into Alphabet Inc’s Google following an ongoing dispute with local startups regarding its in-app billing system. The Competition Commission of India (CCI) announced the investigation on Friday, citing concerns that Google implemented its policies in a “discriminatory manner.”

The conflict between Indian startups and Google has been ongoing for several months, primarily revolving around the fees charged by Google for in-app payments. Earlier this month, tensions escalated when Google removed over 100 Indian apps from its app store for billing-related violations. However, after intervention from the Indian government, Google reinstated these apps.

The startups, dissatisfied with Google’s actions, approached the CCI to intervene in the matter. In response, the CCI ordered an investigation, expressing concerns about Google’s discriminatory policy implementation.

The CCI has directed its investigation unit to complete the probe within 60 days, emphasizing the need for a thorough examination of Google’s practices.

In response to the CCI’s decision, a spokesperson from Google stated that the company would cooperate with the investigation process.

The core of the dispute lies in the efforts of Indian startups to resist Google’s imposition of fees ranging from 11% to 26% on in-app payments. This conflict arises after India’s antitrust authorities previously directed Google to dismantle a system charging fees between 15% to 30% in 2022.

Google maintains its stance, asserting that the fees are necessary to support investments in the Google Play app store and the Android mobile operating system. However, the CCI’s investigation is driven by concerns that Google may not be adhering to earlier antitrust directives, particularly regarding the use of alternate billing systems by companies.

As the investigation unfolds, the outcome will be closely monitored, especially concerning its implications for the relationship between Google and Indian startups, as well as broader competition dynamics in the digital marketplace.

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