In the first case of a Big Tech giant paying a heavy penalty to the Indian regulators as the government aims to bring in an inclusive Digital India Act (DIA), Google has paid the entire penalty amount of Rs 1,337.76 crore imposed by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) in the Android case.
Reliable sources told IANS on Tuesday that the entire penalty amount has been deposited in the Consolidated Fund of India, within the 30-day deadline given by the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) in its order.
The Indian market regulator had imposed the penalty on Google in October 2022 for allegedly exploiting its dominant position in the Android market.
Dr Ritesh Malik, Director, Alliance for Digital India Foundation (ADIF), who has been at the forefront of helping Indian startups fight against the global Internet giants, told IANS that Big Tech firms started taking the fines/penalties as 'cost of doing business' and prefer to pay the same rather than making the ecosystem more fair and non-discriminative.
"It is important to note that Google has made the payment after spending all possible avenues, including reaching out to the SC and the NCLAT. The paramount concern is whether Google is complying with the CCI rulings in letter and spirit, which has not been the case today," Malik added.
Earlier this year, Google announced to comply with the CCI's directives for Android.
"The CCI's recent directives for Android and Play require us to make significant changes for India, and we've informed the CCI of how we will be complying with their directives," Google had said in a statement.
"We're updating the Android compatibility requirements to introduce changes for partners to build non-compatible or forked variants," said Google.
Through user choice billing, developers can offer users the option to choose an alternative billing system alongside Google Play's billing system when purchasing in-app digital content.
The changes came as a Supreme Court bench said that the findings by the CCI cannot be said to be "without jurisdiction or with manifest error" and affirmed the NCLAT order, declining to grant interim relief to Google.
The bench directed the NCLAT to dispose of Google's appeal by March 31, and granted Google seven days to deposit 10 per cent of the Rs 1,337.76 crore penalty imposed by the CCI.
Google had alleged that the CCI copy-pasted parts of a European court order without examining associated evidence in India.
The CCI has also imposed a penalty of Rs 936.44 crore on Google in a separate case for abusing its dominant position with respect to its Play Store policies.
In response to Google's announcement of implementing its new Google Play payments policy, the ADIF had expressed deep concern over the policy change and has demanded that the new policies must be put on hold, since Google charging a nearly 30 per cent service fee on app developers will prove to be a significant blow to the Indian startup ecosystem.