Google Pay | Representational image | pxfuel
Google Pay | Representational image | pxfuel
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New Delhi: The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has issued Google its third “major” antitrust notice over allegations that the tech giant has been abusing its dominant position in the market to “unfairly” promote its payment app, Google Pay.

The development was reported by Reuters on Wednesday, which cited five unidentified sources. Google and CCI had not responded to a request for comment, according to the report.

This isn’t the first time Google’s functioning has been looked into by the antitrust body.

In 2019, CCI investigated whether the American company was abusing its market position to inhibit smartphone makers from choosing other Android mobile operating systems apart from Google’s.

Google’s mobile OS is found in over 98 per cent of the approximately 490 million smartphones used in India, Reuters said, citing gadget market analyst firm Counterpoint Research.

The year before, in 2018, CCI ordered Google to pay Rs 135.86 crore after it found that the US-based company was guilty of abusing its dominant position as a leading search engine.

The investigation, first launched in 2012, found that Google was placing its commercial flight search features, a spot companies pay for, at a prominent place on its search results page, putting other businesses at a disadvantage. Google appealed the fine, which is still pending resolution.

The latest complaint was filed this February and CCI has yet to reveal who filed the case, one of the sources quoted by Reuters said, while the other sources said CCI had notified Google of the impending case “a few days ago”. Google is yet to respond to CCI, the report added.

Also read: Google allows work from home till end of 2020, to give $1,000 allowance to each employee

Google’s ‘search bias and manipulation’

The complaint says Google prominently places its own payments app Google Pay within the Google Play store in India, thereby giving the app an “unfair advantage” over its competitors and hurting consumers as well.

The complaint further alleges Google is promoting Google Pay through “search manipulation” and also alleged the company is able to use its dominant position in the mobile operating system (OS) market to promote Google Pay.

However, the case is still said to be at a “consideration stage” and CCI may or may not order a larger investigation. It may even dismiss the case if it finds little basis to the case.

Google could argue that multiple payment apps are available on Android phones for the Indian consumer to choose from, one of the sources quoted in the Reuters report said.

Launched in 2017, Google Pay has 67 million monthly active users in India with transactions worth over $110 billion occurring annually. The app can be used to pay bills and for inter-bank fund transfers.

Google Pay competes with Indian apps such as Paytm (140 million active users a month) and PhonePe (55 million active users a month).

Earlier this month, the CCI started investigating whether WhatsApp was using its dominant position among messaging apps to offer its payment service. WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, has not yet received clearance from the Indian authorities to fully roll out its payment service beyond the pilot stage.

Also read: Apple, Google privacy rules restrict govts from collecting vital data from Covid tracing apps


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