NCLAT Defers Hearing On Google's Play Store Billing Policy To July 5

NCLAT Defers Hearing On Google's Play Store Billing Policy To July 5

A two-member National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) bench, after a brief hearing over the petitions, directed listing the matter after summer vacations on July 5.

PTIUpdated: Friday, May 24, 2024, 04:59 PM IST
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NCLAT Defers Hearing On Google's Play Store Billing Policy To July 5 | Representative image

Insolvency appellate tribunal NCLAT on Friday deferred hearing to July 5 on the petitions filed against tech giant Google over its Play Store billing policy.

A two-member National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) bench, after a brief hearing over the petitions, directed listing the matter after summer vacations on July 5.

Petitions and Arguments

Indian Broadcasting and Digital Foundation (IBDF), Indian Digital Media Industry Foundation, People Interactive India which operates Shaadi.com, and Mebigo Labs which operates Kuku FM have filed petitions before the NCLAT against Play Store billing policy.

During the proceedings, counsel appearing from app developers requested the bench to pass an order directing status quo till the next date of hearing, though Google had not de-listed them from the Play Store for non-acceptance of policy terms.

They urged the appellate tribunal to ask Google for an undertaking to this effect.

Google's counsel refused to give an undertaking, however, assured the NCLAT that it will not do so till the next hearing.

On this, the NCLAT bench, comprising Justice Yogesh Khanna and Justice Naresh Salecha, said the app developers may approach the appellate tribunal for an urgent hearing during the summer vacations, if any adversarial steps are taken.

CCI's Decision and Challenges

The petitioners have challenged the order passed by the Competition Commission of India (CCI), which had on March 20, 2024 declined to grant any interim relief against Play Store billing policy and restrain Google from collecting fee.

On March 20, CCI dismissed four petitions of Indian app companies filed against Google's new Play Store billing policy to levy an 11 to 26 per cent charge on in-app payments.

The CCI's decision was challenged by the app companies before the NCLAT.

The Indian-origin app firms had alleged before CCI that Google's Play Store payment policies are anti-competitive.

However, CCI in its order had made it clear that nothing stated in this order shall be tantamount to a final expression of opinion on the merits of the case, and the Director General will conduct the investigation without being swayed in any manner whatsoever by the observations made herein.

"The commission is of the view that the informants have failed to meet the necessary criteria for grant of interim relief as propounded by the Supreme Court.

"The informants have not been able to project any higher level of prima facie case warranting a positive direction as sought for by the informants at the interim stage," CCI had said in its order.

The petitions were seeking the regulator to restrain Google from collecting any fee for transactions involving paid downloads or in-app purchases on apps offering digital products/services.

The order had come after the Competition Commission of India (CCI), on March 15, ordered a probe against Google for alleged discriminatory practices with respect to its Play Store pricing policy after finding a prima facie violation of the competition law.

CCI had then held that the tech giant's Users Choice Billing (UCB) payments policy was "prima facie" violative of the Competition Act 2002.

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