India opens antitrust case against Google over its payments app

India’s antitrust watchdog has opened an investigation into Google for allegedly abusing the dominant position of its app store to promote its payments service in the world’s second largest internet market.

In its Monday announcement (PDF) about opening an antitrust case against Google, Indian watchdog Competition Commission of India said it would review the claim whether Google Play Store is favoring Google Pay app over other competing payments services.

The informant alleged that Google prominently showcases Google Pay app in Google Play Store “to the disadvantage of both i.e. apps facilitating payment through UPI, as well as users,” the Indian watchdog said.

If the allegation provided by the informant, who has not been identified, is found credible, Google’s practice could be in violation of various provisions of Section 4 of India’s Competition Act of 2002.

Google Pay, formerly known as Tez, is one of the most popular payments services in India. It competes with Walmart’s PhonePe, Paytm, and a range of other apps. As of last month, Walmart’s PhonePe was slightly ahead of Google Pay in India. Both the apps individually process roughly 40% of all transactions on UPI, a payments infrastructure built by large banks in the country. UPI is the most popular digital payments solution in India.

Google Play Store supports a range of payments methods, including credit cards, mobile wallets, internet banking, and UPI. But, as the informant alleges, “UPI based digital payment apps are more convenient, secured, economical, etc. over other digital payment solutions.” Based on such distinct features, the Indian watchdog said, “the Informant has averred that the market for apps facilitating payment through UPI is a separate relevant market as users do not regard apps facilitating payment through UPI as interchangeable or substitutable with other modes of digital payment.”

The new antitrust case is the latest headache for Google in India, its biggest market by users. In recent months, the dominant position of Android — which powers roughly 99% smartphones in the country, according to research firm Counterpoint, has also irked many startups in the country, who have formed an informal coalition to fight back the Android maker.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

More to follow…

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