Why ADIF has moved CCI for interim relief against Google

What we are essentially asking of CCI, as interim relief, is to maintain the status quo, until the final verdict is arrived at.

One of the key antitrust challenges we have picked up at ADIF is the imposition of app market ‘Lagaan’ or app market tax by Apple as well as Google in their respective app stores. The imposition forces all developers to adopt proprietary in-house payment processing systems and by extension, shell out 30% of all revenues earned as commissions to Google/Apple. 

While the commission itself is high and onerous, the root of the issue is Google and Apple leveraging their dominance to force out other payment service providers from the app economy and denying the choice of payment provider to developers – making it an anti-competitive practice and ergo an antitrust challenge

Developers around the world have voiced their opposition and concern to this imposition of digital toll – some also challenging it legally. Regulators around the world are taking note, with some, like in the case of South Korea, leading the way with credible interventions. In India as well, the matter is currently under investigation by the CCI, the Indian antitrust watchdog, and is awaiting a verdict. 

While Apple already enforces this on their store, Google has announced that it will start enforcing it from March 2022. It is also in this context that our interim relief request to CCI comes into perspective. 

Now a lot has happened since the announcement of Google of the March 2022 timeline. Given the overall global context and ongoing investigation, it is possible that Google will decide to postpone the implementation timeline; or do away with it all together even – the chances of which look slim given the recent moves the company has been making.

The timeline for completion of the CCI investigation and verdict is also still uncertain. 

This puts the developers in a very uncertain and anxious position. With only a handful of months to the deadline, the anxiety is reasonably understandable. It was crucial that we explored ways to alleviate this anxiety faced by developer companies.

One way would be to request the CCI to expedite their investigation – which we felt would not be a fair request, given that the body should also be given the required time and space to run their investigation well. The other would have been to hope that Google will postpone the implementation – but hope can’t be a strategy. 

That’s how we arrived at the interim relief request. What we are essentially asking of CCI, as interim relief, is to maintain the status quo, until the final verdict is arrived at. This would be fair to the CCI, the developer companies and also to Google.

As an industry body, representing the concerns and aspirations of our stakeholders, we felt this was also the right thing to do.