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A man walks past a logo of Alphabet Inc's Google in front of an office building in Zurich, Switzerland July 1, 2020. Picture: REUTERS/ARND WIEGMANN/FILE PHOTO
A man walks past a logo of Alphabet Inc's Google in front of an office building in Zurich, Switzerland July 1, 2020. Picture: REUTERS/ARND WIEGMANN/FILE PHOTO

New Delhi — A group of Indian start-ups has asked a court to suspend Google’s new in-app billing fee system until the country’s antitrust body investigates the US firm for alleged noncompliance with its directives, a legal filing showed.

The Alliance of Digital India Foundation (Adif) asked India’s antitrust regulator in March to investigate Google for devising a new system which start-ups say still charges them a high service fee, despite an antitrust directive in October to allow use of third-party billing services for in-app payments.

In its April 10 filing at the high court in Delhi, Adif argues that the antitrust body has yet to hear its complaint promptly even as Google’s April 26 implementation date of the User Choice Billing system (UCB) is nearing.

The 744-page filing, seen by Reuters, asks the court to “keep the implementation of Google’s UCB in abeyance” until the Competition Commission of India (CCI) hears the complaint. The court is likely to hear the plea later this week.

The CCI did not respond, while Google declined requests for comment.

The filing marks the latest tussle between Google and Indian start-ups, which have repeatedly criticised the US company for what they say are unfair business restrictions. In October, the CCI fined Google $112m and said the company must stop forcing developers to use its proprietary in-app payment system, labelling it an abuse of its dominant market position.

Google has denied any wrongdoing and challenged the antitrust ruling. The new service fee system, it says, supports investments in Google Play app store and the Android mobile operating system, ensuring that it distributes it for free, and covering developer tools and analytic services.

But Indian start-ups argue Google’s UCB system still imposes a “service fee” of 11%-26%, compared with the earlier in-app payment system that charged a fee of 15%-30%. The new system is “cloaked as another version” of Google’s earlier system, the Adif filing said.

Reuters

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