Policy Wrap: Google’s call to implement alternative billing from April 26 criticised, Antitrust focus now shifting to a wider spectrum of economic ramifications due to Bigtech practices, and more
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Developers and industry stalwarts slam Google’s call for developers to implement alternative billing from April 26
Google has provided developers with an ultimatum to comply with the new Google Play payments policy permitting alternative billing, by April 26. According to the business, this was being done in reaction to recent regulatory changes in the country. With this modification, developers can now provide an alternative billing system in addition to Google Play's billing system to Indian users.
Developers, on the other hand, claim that this is a clear breach of the Competition Commission of India's (CCI) rulings and claimed that Google was "going the South Korea way," in which it offered user choice billing in response to criticism from South Korean regulatory authorities.
The CCI had stated in its decision that the use of any third-party billing/payment processing services, whether for in-app purchases or for acquiring apps, is permitted by Google and is not subject to restriction. Moreover, Google shall not discriminate against or otherwise retaliate against such apps that use third-party billing/payment processing services.
As per the directives of CCI, Google were required to allow third-party payments, but by doing so, Google is making sure that the payments are processed via them.
According to Snehil Khanor, co-founder & CEO of TrulyMadly.com, “Google is 'finding loopholes' in the CCI verdict“
Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF), also released a statement last week which mentioned that by charging app developers an "exorbitant" 11-26% fee, Google was "blatantly disobeying" the CCI orders. This means that app developers will be required to pay Google commissions even though they do not use any of their services.
Antitrust focus now shifting to a wider spectrum of economic ramifications due to Bigtech practices
The Competition Commission of India (CCI) is considering taking into account the economy's overall effects of consumer welfare, such as access to innovation and choice for smaller businesses which are dependent on larger platforms, in addition to price, when forming a view on anti-competitive practices.
Antitrust attention is gradually shifting to effects of Big Tech practises on the entire economy, according to a CCI official
Problems related to corporate users and these platforms are increasingly being addressed by antitrust regulation. Self-referencing, leveraging, data collection methods, and deep discounting are terms that are becoming more common in antitrust law.
The CCI has focused more on bringing digital businesses into its purview in recent years, both from a mergers and acquisitions standpoint as well as from a dominant position one.
The CCI is in the process of establishing a separate Digital Markets and Data Unit due to the volume of cases, complexity, and growing demand for data and technological capabilities in the digital sector.
Stakeholder consultation for the Digital India Bill to commence in March
The much-anticipated Digital India Bill, which is expected to include provisions related to a comprehensive framework for the internet, including provisions on user harm, ownership of non-personal data, cyberbullying, doxing, and other cybercrimes, will begin in March.
"Digital India Bill will have extensive consultation across the country,” Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology said last week. “Keeping in mind our pipeline of goals, it will start in March. The first consultation will start in New Delhi.”
It may also include clauses that categorise and govern diverse online portals, including platforms with artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities and e-commerce websites.
At a recent meeting held by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), social media platforms conveyed that they prefer a self-regulatory organisation (SRO) to conduct fact-checking of non-government-related news
“For business resilience, the backup data must be in India,” Chandrasekhar said. “There is a lot of interest and the interest is manifesting itself in the Indian data centre industry. The underlying IT sector, IT manufacturing sectors are also getting a boost.”
The Digital India Act is intended to be a replacement for the Information Technology Act, 2000
Self-Regulatory Body May “Fact-Check” Non-Government-Related Information Online: IT Ministry
According to the IT ministry, a new misinformation policy is being planned, which states that only the press arm of the Indian government will fact-check news that relates to the government. Rajeev Chandrasekhar, the state minister for Information Technology in India, stated that social media company officials had informed the ministry that they preferred that news stories unrelated to government affairs be fact-checked by a self-regulatory body (SRO).
According to the proposed guideline, platforms must remove content that has been verified as "fake or false" by the Press Information Bureau (PIB) or any organisation that has been given permission by the Central government. In order to combat "misinformation" about the government's policies and programmes on various social media platforms, the Bureau had established a fact-checking unit in 2019.
Consumer demand to remain weak in the upcoming quarters, offers tough challenge for startups
As inflation rises, consumer demand is anticipated to remain weak during the upcoming quarters, further slowing the country's startups.
According to the Consumer Confidence Survey conducted by the Reserve Bank of India in January 2023, where more than 50% of respondents indicated that the overall economic situation had gotten worse, consumer perception of the situation is still negative.
This occurs during a challenging period for new businesses. Companies today have a limited capacity to stimulate expansion through discounts and other levers, even if these strategies were effective when money was easier to come by.
Startups must therefore concentrate on effective unit economics and increase profitability by adhering to their core products, according to the report.
For entrepreneurs, the Covid-19 pandemic's market disruption resulted in phases of growth and slowdowns. As a result, the majority of firms saw net growth over two pandemic waves.
The report anticipates low consumer demand in the near future due to rising inflation, organized-sector unemployment in urban areas, and declining real wages in rural areas.
Cash-strapped Edtech firms eyeing to poach rivals due to the funding crunch
In the midst of a fundraising winter, large businesses in the edtech sector are beginning to poach potential targets.
Plans are being made by PhysicsWallah to boost the allocation for mergers and acquisitions (M&As) from the current $50 million to $100 million.
Mayank Kumar, a co-founder of UpGrad, said the company was considering possible acquisitions to bolster its workforce training and B2B (business-to-business) capabilities.
Similar to this, edtech unicorn Lead is assessing firms that could increase its market penetration or add items that could benefit from its distribution.
The goal, according to UpGrad's Kumar, was to find organisations that had decreased their cash burn rate and sustained enterprises rather than those that would fail if they made cost cuts.
The idea is that after these companies are purchased, their fixed costs will be decreased, leverage added to the existing fixed costs business, and minimise their burn to convert it into a successful business.
Some edtech businesses that haven't been successful in raising new capital in the past year are searching for an immediate exit.
According to Tracxn, a data platform for privately held companies, edtech startups raised $3.1 billion in 2022 from 182 rounds, which is much less than the $5.4 billion raised in 2021 through 331 rounds.
Due to a lack of funding, edtech businesses have had to reduce their spending on marketing and payroll.
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