Google: Google Pay may face CCI investigation in India

Google: Google Pay may face CCI investigation in India

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India’s antitrust body has noted allegations that Alphabet Inc.’s Google is misusing its market position to unfairly promote its mobile payment app in the country, five sources told Reuters familiar with the case.

The complaint was filed in February and the Competition Commission of India (CCI) has kept the complainant’s identity confidential, the first source with direct knowledge of the case.

The complaint states that the US tech giant has featured its Google Pay app more prominently inside its Android App Store in India, giving it an unfair advantage over competitors’ apps that harm consumers, the source said.

Google did not respond to a request for comment. Two sources said that the watchdog informed Google about the matter a few days ago and the company will respond in due time.

A source said that the case filings are currently being reviewed by senior CCI members. Typically in such cases, Google will appear before the watchdog to decide which way to go later.

The CCI may direct its investigative unit to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the allegations, or dismiss the case if it does not find any merit.

“It’s in a thought phase,” the source said.

CCI did not respond to a request for comment.

This is Google’s third major antitrust challenge in India. In 2018, CCI fined Google $ 21 million for “search bias”, but a company’s appeal is pending against it. CCI also began investigating Google last year for misusing its dominant position to reduce smartphone makers’ ability to choose alternative versions of its Android mobile operating system.

Google Pay allows users in India to make inter-bank fund transfers and bill payments. It competes with apps like SoftBank-backed Paytm and Walmart’s PhonePay in India’s crowded digital payment market, where Facebook’s WhatsApp is also planning a similar service.

Google stated on its blog in September that its payment apps have grown exponentially to reach 67 million monthly active users in India, driving transactions in excess of $ 110 billion on an annual basis. The usage of such apps has increased in India.

The Google Antitrust complaint alleges that the company is able to leverage its strong position in the Android market to promote the app, the first source added.

Data from Counterpoint Research shows that about 98% of India’s 490 million smartphones have the power of Android mobile operating platform.

The complaint also alleges that Google is promoting its payment app using search manipulations, with the source asking if the company did so, without expanding the allegations.

However, one of the sources said that users in India have the option to select one of the many digital payment apps available on Android, something that Google can use to defend against complaints over its dominant status.

Earlier this month, Reuters reported that CCI was looking into allegations that WhatsApp was misusing its dominant location in the country by offering payment services to its giant messaging app users.


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