CCI looks into antitrust claims against Google Pay: Report

The Competition Commission of India (CCI), a statutory body that looks into antitrust claims, has started probing into a claim against Google Pay (Gpay). According to a news report, the agency has already called in rival payment firms, including PhonePe and Paytm Payments Bank, as part of the investigation.

The investigation is to find out if Google’s digital payment platform has abused its dominance in India’s digital payments market. CCI wants to find out if Google is giving users the choice to pay through payment platforms other than Gpay, and if it is imposing unjust restrictions on users using other payment platforms. CCI will also check if Google is abiding by the government’s zero-merchant discount rate (MDR) policy, stated the news report.

The market watchdog is trying to understand if Google is giving users the choice to pay through platforms apart from Google Pay, the report said. The CCI is also trying to examine if Google is trying to gain an unfair advantage by leveraging user data on its platform and through restrictions on other payment platforms, the report said citing sources. The CCI will also examine if Google is complying with the government’s zero-merchant discount rate (MDR) policy, the report said.

Even as India investigates Gpay, many countries across the world, including the US, have conducted investigations into Google on antitrust claims in the past. The European Commission has even levied billions of dollars in fines on Google in various cases.

CCI and Google Pay did not respond when contacted by Mint, while PhonePe and Paytm declined to comment. The CCI ordered the probe in November 2020, but a formal investigation began in January after the appointment of an additional director general, the report said.

“CCI is still at a nascent point of the investigation and is trying to approach the matter from the perspective of app bundling with the Android OS, search manipulations where Google Pay appears on the top when a user searches for a payment use-case such as recharge on (Google search); and leveraging Google properties and data such as YouTube and Play Store to plant advertisements for its payment service, through ad personalization,” a source told the paper.

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