Google tells CCI ‘undue influence’ on mobile app distribution

Tech giant Google on Friday submitted before the NCLAT that its mobile app distribution agreement with device makers was “unfairly imputed” by competition regulator CCI as it does not restrict others from installing apps, including those of rivals.

A two-member NCLAT bench headed by Chairman Justice Ashok Bhushan said on Friday that it would start day-to-day hearing of the matter from February 23, the next date of hearing.

Google Arguing its case before the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) said that its appointment apps Not “unreasonable” on devices via pre-installation under MADA (Mobile Application Distribution Agreement) as there is no restriction on installing other apps and there is enough space available for them.

The Appellate Tribunal was hearing a petition filed by Google against Rs. Fair trade regulator imposed a fine of Rs 1,337 crore CCI to abuse his dominant position in relation to Android mobile devices.

Under MADA, OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) are required to have Google Mobile Suite (GMS) installed when installing Google’s Android OS. It cannot be uninstalled.

Senior advocate Arun Kathpalia, representing the global IT major, said that its apps, which are only pre-installed, “do not translate into dominance”.

There is no restriction on pre-installation of other apps and Android users can download apps like WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter of that play store as per their choice. In 2021, 26 billion downloads of apps were recorded.

Also, on the contrary, OEMs are also happy with GMS as they said these apps make their products more marketable, Kathpalia said.

“What is the harm to OEMs and users in this?” he asked. He said the CCI order shows “improperties”.

Kathpalia said it is not charging any royalty and is ensuring a healthy ecosystem. He further said that Google does not have a closed system like Apple,

“There is huge competition within the Android ecosystem,” he added.

The CCI had on October 20 last year imposed a fine of Rs. 1,337.76 crore on Google for anti-competitive practices with respect to Android mobile Device. In the October verdict, the CCI had also ordered the internet major to cease and desist various unfair business practices.

NCLAT, an appellate authority on orders passed by the CCI, began its hearing in the Android case on February 15 following a direction from the Supreme Court. The top court had directed the NCLAT to decide the appeal by March 31.

Earlier, a separate bench of the NCLAT had on January 4 issued notice on Google’s plea, directing it to pay 10 per cent of Rs. CCI imposed a fine of 1,337 crores It had refused to stay the CCI order and posted the matter for final hearing on April 3, 2023.

This was challenged by Google before the Supreme Court, which also declined to stay the CCI order, but directed the NCLAT to decide Google’s appeal by March 31.

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