Google CCI: SC refuses to stay CCI order against Google, seeks explanation from tech giant

Supreme Court on Monday refused to stay the Competition Commission of India‘s (CCI) order that directed Google to make changes to its Android ecosystem by January 19. The top court asked the search engine giant to explain whether it is “willing to put the same regime in India as it did abroad” and if the anti-trust directions are “inconsistent with the steps it had taken?”

A bench led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud posed these queries to senior counsel AM Singhvi, appearing for Google, which has challenged the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal’s (NCLAT) January 4 order that refused to stay a Rs 1,337.76 crore penalty imposed on the technology giant by the CCI for alleged anti-competitive practices. The case will be taken up for further hearing on Wednesday.

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Additional Solicitor General R Venkataraman, appearing for CCI, and senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi, on behalf of OSLabs Technology, told the bench that the tech giant was discriminating the “third world country like us” and treating it differently.

“The European Union has already held Google in abuse of having a dominant position,” the ASG said.

Google has claimed that it had been operating the Android mobile platform for the last 15 years and these “far-reacting changes” as directed by the anti-trust order will lead to “lasting and irreparable harm” to the company, device manufacturers, Indian consumers, app developers, and the wider Indian economy.

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Seeking quashing of the CCI’s findings, directions and the penalty, Google said the antitrust watchdog’s order was “patently erroneous” and ignored the reality of competition in India, its pro-competitive business model, and the benefits created for all stakeholders.By January 19, the Alphabet subsidiary has to make changes to the way it markets the Android platform in India.

On December 4, the NCLAT refused to stay the antitrust regulator’s order citing “lack of urgency”, as the company took two months to file the appeal, and asked Google to deposit 10% of the penalty within three weeks.

In its petition before the Supreme Court, Google said the appellate tribunal’s order was completely ambiguous and unsustainable as the direction for deposit of 10% of the penalty amount did not grant any interim protection against the other directions issued by the CCI.

While claiming that the CCI director-general, who had probed the allegations against the company, copy-pasted the conclusions from the decisions of foreign authorities “without any application of mind” the company said, “the impugned order is fraught with substantive, analytical and procedural errors including inter alia ignoring exculpatory evidence, statements from Indian OEMs and developers…”

Such errors, the appeal claimed, led the commission to make “perverse and incorrect” findings.

CCI on October 20 penalised Google, for allegedly exploiting its dominant position in markets such as online search and through the Android app store. It asked the Internet major to cease and desist from various unfair business practices, and prescribed eight corrective measures that Google Play needed to implement.

This decision, according to Google, would expose Indian users to unprecedented security risks, and make Android devices in India more expensive. Google approached the NCLAT against the CCI order on December 20.

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