Against Google’s new in-app billing policy, the Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF), a group that advocates for Indian startups, filed concerns on Monday, and the Delhi High Court on Monday ordered the Competition Commission of India (CCI) to investigate.
By Wednesday (April 26), when Google’s new billing policy is set to go into effect, the court ordered the CCI to take the complaints under consideration.
In a 38-page decision, Justice Tushar Rao Gedela stated that “there is no impediment, legal or otherwise, in directing the CCI to take up the applications under section 42 of the Act as filed by the petitioner for hearing and considering the same in accordance with the law on or before April 26, 2023.”
“It is made clear that observations made herein are only to the extent of deciding the present list before this court and shall not tantamount to any expression on the merits of the case and the same is therefore without prejudice to the rights and contentions of all parties to be taken at the appropriate proceeding,” it further stated.
Last Wednesday, the court reserved its decision after the hearing in the case was completed. Given that the CCI currently has only two members and does not have a quorum, the parties’ main arguments focused on whether it was legal for the CCI to take the complaints up. CCI meetings must have a quorum of three members in order to proceed legally under the Competition Act.
The Competition Commission, represented by additional solicitor general N Venkataraman, asked the high court for advice on the issue during the case’s arguments. The ADIF stated that even though there was no quorum present, the CCI was still considering merger and acquisition cases and used to the concept of necessity because the new Google policy will become effective on April 26.
The court considered several factors before giving its decision, including whether the CCI had been legally established with just two members to continue performing its adjudicative roles, the impact of Section 15 of the Competition Act, and whether the theory of necessity would apply in this particular situation.
No CCI proceeding may be rendered invalid by a vacancy or other change to the commission’s constitution, according to Section 15 of the Act.
“…this court is of the considered opinion that the provisions of Section 15 act as a saving clause in regard to a situation where a vacancy or a defect in constitution of the CCI would arise and any such vacancy or defect in the constitution would not invalidate any proceedings so far as the adjudicatory powers of the CCI is concerned,” the order stated.
For its anti-competitive in the Google Play Store policies, CCI fined Google Rs 936 crore on October 25. Google declared its intention to launch UCB on April 26 of this year after the verdict.