India’s Competition Commission has initiated an inquiry into Google following allegations from companies that the service fee charged by the U.S. firm for in-app payments breaches an earlier antitrust directive. Match, the owner of Tinder, and Indian startups have asked the watchdog to investigate Google’s User Choice Billing (UCB) system, alleging that it is anti-competitive. The CCI has issued an order stating that it believes an inquiry needs to be made. The order is not public, and Google has not commented on the matter.
In October, the CCI fined Google $113 million and said it must permit the use of third-party billing and cease forcing developers to use its in-app payment system, which charges a commission of 15%-30%. Google later introduced UCB, enabling alternative payments alongside Google’s when purchasing in-app digital content. However, some companies have complained that the new system still imposes a high “service fee” of 11%-26%.
Match and the Alliance of Digital India Foundation contend that this means Google has not complied with the previous antitrust directive, which prohibited it from imposing any such “unfair and disproportionate” conditions. In its order, the CCI has asked Google to explain certain provisions relating to the in-app payment system before and after UCB and provide details of policies regarding the sharing of user and app developer data. Google has four weeks to respond, according to the order.
Google has previously stated that the service fee supports investments in the Google Play app store and the Android mobile operating system, ensuring it distributes it for free and covers developer tools and analytic services. The company, which considers India a significant growth market, faces other regulatory challenges, including a setback that forced it to alter how it markets its Android system.