Google’s anti-competitive activities are harming Indian consumers and the economy by stifling “swadeshi” (indigenous) competitors, a top official of home-grown navigation firm MapMyIndia said. The Competition Commission of India (CCI) in October slapped a steep penalty of Rs 1,337.76 crore on internet giant Google for abusing its dominant position in multiple markets in relation to Android mobile devices and ordered the internet major to cease and desist from various unfair business practices.
Google has approached the appellate tribunal NCLAT to challenge the CCI order on unfair business practices in the Android mobile device ecosystem, alleging that the decision presents a major setback for its Indian users and businesses, who trust Android’s security features and potentially raises the cost of mobile devices. “It is common knowledge in industry, government, regulators and those who have studied the matter in detail that Google is an anti-competitive monopoly that perpetuates its monopolies across newer and newer markets through anti-competitive practices that Google has made it pretty much impossible for alternative operating systems, app stores, and apps like maps to proliferate amongst OEMs and users,” MapMyIndia CEO and ED Rohan Verma said in a statement.
During COVID in 2020, MapmyIndia’s app was showing people nearby containment zones as well as testing and treatment centres, helping them stay safe, something which Google Maps didn’t provide, but Google removed MapmyIndia’s app from Play Store, he added. Verma said the company wrote many times to Google about the removal of the MapMyIndia app and then wrote on social media — even covered by some publications — after which Google finally reinstated it.
“These anti-competitive activities of Google harm Indian consumers and the Indian economy by stifling Indian swadeshi competitors like MapmyIndia,” Verma said. MapMyIndia started in 1995 and launched its online maps in 2004. “This week, Google moved the NCLAT to fight against CCI (order) and rolled out its big guns and PR machinery to disingenuously create spin, attempting to influence, coerce and shape the narrative in its own favour to prevent the excellent initiatives of CCI, Government of India and Parliament from being seen through,” Verma said.
MapMyIndia did not respond to a PTI query if the company will take any legal measures to oppose Google. When contacted Google spokesperson said: “We have decided to appeal the CCI’s decision on Android, as we believe it presents a major setback for our Indian users and businesses who trust Android’s security features and potentially raises the cost of mobile devices. Android has greatly benefitted Indian users, developers, and OEMs, and powered India’s digital transformation.
We look forward to making our case and remain committed to our users and partners”. The Standing Committee on Finance’s report on ‘Anti-Competitive Practices by Big Tech Companies’ has proposed ex-ante regulations, a category of systemically important digital intermediaries and a new digital competition law to curb anti-competitive practices in digital markets. Besides, the committee has asked digital market entities to desist from “anti-steering”, “deep discounting”, “self preferencing”, “search & ranking preferencing” and other practices that will impact competition in the market.
In a significant recommendation, the panel has suggested classifying leading entities that can negatively influence competitive conduct in the digital ecosystem as ‘Systemically Important Digital Intermediaries’ (SIDIs) based on their revenue, market capitalisation and number of active business and end users. Apart from saying that the government should consider and introduce a Digital Competition Act to ensure a fair and transparent digital ecosystem, the panel has pitched for revamping the Competition Commission of India and the creation of a specialised digital markets unit within CCI. P
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Story first published: Monday, December 26, 2022, 9:14 [IST]