India’s antitrust watchdog on Friday ordered an investigation into Alphabet Inc’s Google in an ongoing dispute with domestic startups over its in-app billing system, saying the US company implemented its policies in a “discriminatory manner”.

Indian startups have been at loggerheads with Google for months over the fee it charges for in-app payments.

The dispute escalated earlier this month after Google removed more than 100 Indian apps from its app store for billing violations, but reinstated them after the Indian government intervened.

The startups have asked the Competition Commission of India (CCI) to look into the matter and the watchdog on Friday ordered an inquiry, saying, “Google is implementing its policies in a discriminatory manner.”

The CCI also directed its investigation department to complete the probe within 60 days.

“We are reviewing the CCI’s order to initiate the investigation,” a Google spokesperson said in an emailed response to Reuters, adding that the company would cooperate with the process “in every way.”

The dispute centers on efforts by some Indian startups to prevent Google from imposing an 11% to 26% fee on in-app payments after the country’s antitrust authorities ordered it to dismantle a 15% to 30% charging system in 2022 .

Google denies wrongdoing and says it charges a fee to support investment in the Google Play app store and Android mobile operating system by ensuring it distributes it for free.

The CCI has already spent months looking into the startups’ complaint that Google was not complying with an earlier antitrust directive that prevented it from taking adverse action against companies that use alternative billing systems.

© Thomson Reuters 2024

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