India’s regulator, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) was reportedly looking into an antitrust case against the tech giant, Alphabet Inc.’s Google LLC (Google) and the Indian watchdog has informed the company about the case a few days ago, sources familiar with the case told Reuters. A complaint was filed in February by some groups who alleged that the company abused its dominant market position to unfairly promote its mobile payments app, Google Pay, in the country.
India’s Antitrust Case against Google
The complaint made an allegation that the United States (US) tech giant has used its unfair advantage to showcase its Google Pay app more prominently inside its Android app store in India, which harmed the competitive market of the payment service and limited the choice of the customers. It is expected that Google will respond in due course since the Indian watchdog informed regarding the case.
A source said senior CCI members were examining the complaint and Google was supposed to appear before the watchdog about such a case to decide the case forward. “It is at a consideration stage,” the source added that the CCI can direct its investigations unit to conduct a wider probe into the allegations or dismiss the case if it finds no merit in it.
With the latest complaint, Google is now facing a third major antitrust challenge in India. In 2018, the CCI fined Google $21 million for “search bias” but the issue is pending due to an appeal by a company. Last year, the CCI also began a probe against Google for allegedly misusing its dominant position to limit choice of the smartphone manufacturers and procure only of its Android mobile operating system.
India as a Major Market for Google Pay
Google Pay, which provides a digital financial service, allows users in India to do inter-bank fund transfers and bill payments for any financial related transactions. In India, it is currently competing with other payment apps such as Softbank-backed Paytm and Walmart’s PhonePe to control India’s crowded digital payments market, and meanwhile, Facebook’s WhatsApp is also considering to open up a similar service in the country.
In September last year, Google claimed that its payments app grew rapidly in India with having over 67 million monthly active users, which facilitated transactions worth more than $110 billion on an annualized basis. Data from Counterpoint Research showed the US tech company took advantage since its android mobile operating platforms power around 98% of the 490 million smartphones in India.
Nonetheless, the source reported that the antitrust complaint alleged Google made its unfair advantage due to its strong position in the Android market to promote the app. Earlier this month, the CCI also began an inquiry into a complaint saying that WhatsApp was abusing its dominant position by offering payment services to its vast base of messaging app users in the country.
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