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Google vs CCI: Supreme Court Asks Whether Firm Will Institute European Regime for Pre-Installed Apps in India

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The Supreme Court on Monday asked tech giant Google whether it will put in place the same regime in India as it has in Europe with respect to the pre-installed apps in Android-based mobile phones. A bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala posted the matter for hearing on January 18.

The inquiry of the Supreme Court came after Additional Solicitor General of India N Venkataraman, appearing for CCI, told the Supreme Court that Google was taking different standards in Europe and India and the search engine company had complied with a similar order passed by European Commission.

ASG told the bench, “We are going to show some shocking data. Their grievance that they are unable to comply with the order within 90 days doesn’t stand because they’re fully complying with the order passed in 2016 in the European Union. Euro 4 billion fully paid by them. All these directions have been totally complied within Europe for the past five years. A standing committee is now going into this. This will now be part of digital law. European Union has already held them to be dominant. We are a third-world country.”

ASG asked how they can discriminate between Indian consumers and European consumers.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi appearing for Google India refuted the claim of CCI and said the CCI had misrepresented the facts and that compliance in Europe was pertaining to MADA unbundling.

The CJI then posted the matter for Wednesday and asked Singhvi, “Will Google practice the same regime in place in India as you have in Europe? Please reflect on this and come back.”

The Supreme Court was hearing an appeal of Google India against a ruling of the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT), which refused to stay a Rs 1,337.76 crore penalty imposed on the technology giant by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) for alleged anti-competitive practices.

After facing a setback at NCLAT, which refused to stay a CCI order on abuse of dominant position in multiple markets in the Android mobile device ecosystem case, Google approached the Supreme Court.

Google has challenged the January 4 order of the NCLAT which refused to stay the CCI order reasoning that the CCI’s order was passed in October 2022, while the appeal by Google was filed only in December 2022 and hence, no case for interim relief was made out.

Since no urgency was shown in filing the appeal, Google could not be allowed to insist on interim relief, the Tribunal has said.

NCLAT has also directed Google to deposit 10 per cent of the Rs. 1337.76 crore fine amount within three weeks.

The CCI had, in October 2022, imposed the penalty on Google for abusing its dominant position in multiple markets in the Android mobile device ecosystem and also directed Google to cease and desist from participating in anti-competitive practices.

Google challenged the CCI order in the NCLAT, which is an appellate authority over the CCI against any direction issued by the regulator.

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