How India and other countries are challenging the monopolistic practices of Apple and Google

Here are some of the actions countries and companies are taking.

What’s happening in India

Founders of India’s digital startups have been vocal about their opposition to not just Google’s app store fee, but also to the company mandating the use of its own billing system. This opposition has contributed to Google postponing the deadline for enforcing its policy in India to April 2022.

In the midst of continued opposition, the tech giant Google recently decided to reduce Play Store commission for apps that offer subscription services. The company said that instead of charging a 30% fee for subscription payments made through Google's built-in payments services, the company will drop the commission to 15%

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However, developers and startups are taking issue not with the deadline or with the percentage charged, but with the monopolistic tactic of forcing Google’s own billing system.

Startup founders have come together and are working on alternatives. Companies like Paytm have come up with their own mini app store. They have also requested the government to support the creation of an independent app store for apps by Indian companies.

In November 2020, India’s Competition Commission of India (CCI) launched an investigation into Google for the alleged abuse of its dominant market position to promote its payment system. 

In August 2021, Together We Fight Society, an NGO based in Rajasthan, filed a complaint with the CCI against the Apple App Store’s policies of misusing its market dominance.

Then, in October 2021, ADIF filed a petition before the CCI through their lawyers at Sarvada Legal seeking interim relief from Google’s new PlayStore policy which goes into effect from March 2022.

ADIF believes that if the status quo is not maintained pending the completion of the inquiry, Google will enforce its terms on the Play Store in March 2022, leading to irreversible consequences for India’s startup ecosystem.

What’s happening in other countries

Other countries have recognised the monopolistic practices of Google and Apple and have moved to counter or restrict such practices. 

Here are some of the actions countries and companies are taking:

  1. In July 2021, 36 states in the US filed a case against Google alleging that the company abused its power over the sale and distribution of apps through the Google Play Store. The lawsuit states that Google used anti-competitive tactics to thwart competition and ensure that developers have no choice but to go through the Google Play Store to reach users and that it then collects an “extravagant” commission of up to 30% on app purchases.

  2. In July 2021, collective action or a class-action lawsuit was filed in the UK on behalf of around 19.5 million people in the country who have bought apps or in-app digital content, services, or subscriptions since October 1, 2015. The person leading this lawsuit said, “Customers are herded towards the Google Play Store and, once there, have no option but to pay a 30% fee whenever they buy an app or make an in-app purchase. Competing app stores, which could give the same service at a fraction of the price, never get a look in.” 

  3. Epic Games, the maker of the popular Fortnite game, sued Google in 2020 after Google kicked out the game from its Play Store after the game creator launched its own payment system bypassing Google billing. Epic alleged that Google monopolised the market for the distribution of mobile apps to Android users and the accompanying payment processing market. Epic filed a similar case against Apple.

  4. In September 2020, 13 app publishers in the US, including Epic Games, Deezer, Basecamp, Tile, and Spotify, launched the Coalition for App Fairness to find solutions to issues like anti-competitive practices followed by Apple and Google, like the app stores’ 30% commission structure. 

  5. In August 2021, the South Korean parliament approved a bill that bans all major app stores, including those of Google and Apple, from requiring developers to use only their payment systems. 

  6. In October 2021, Apple updated its App Store Guidelines to permit developers to contact customers about other payment methods.

  7. In November 2021, Google announced it will comply with South Korea’s new mandate by giving Android app developers on Google Play the ability to offer alternative payment systems alongside Google’s own.

Among the issues ADIF is working on, we are fighting Google and Apple on their app store monopolies.

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