Amid the ongoing legal tussle between Google and Indian startups over the new user choice billing system, Anupam Mittal, the founder and CEO of People Group, has criticized the tech giant in a tweet, calling it the ‘Digital East India Company.’
Mittal has accused Google’s new payment norms of violating the antitrust directives issued by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) in October 2022.
Mittal has compared the commission charged by Google to the lagaan (tax) paid by Indian farmers during the colonial era. In a conversation with Inc42, he revealed that he had received a call from Google’s representatives who warned him that his company would have to comply with the new policy by April 26, or its apps would be removed from the Play Store. People Group operates companies like Shaadi.com, Makaan, and Mauj.
Mittal has said that complying with the new billing policy would be illegal, and the People Group would not give up the fight easily. He stated that Google’s actions are tantamount to disregarding the law and institutions of the country. He is confident that the institutions of the country will act in due course of time.
The comment comes days ahead of the April 26 deadline for the implementation of the user choice billing system. Google’s contentious payment mandates will charge commissions in the range of 11%-26% from developers and allow startups to embed third-party payment processors for online transactions. The new norms were introduced earlier this year to comply with the CCI’s antitrust directives issued in October last year.
The new user choice billing system is a byproduct of the slew of reforms and changes undertaken by Google in its India operations and policies. However, trouble erupted earlier this month when policy think tank ADIF, with the backing of Indian startups such as Mapmyindia, Paytm, and People Group’s competitor Matrimony, filed a plea before the Delhi High Court seeking to keep the new policy in abeyance till the watchdog completes a full-fledged probe into a separate complaint filed by the CCI alleging flouting of antitrust norms.
The plea called the new billing system a “cloaked version” of the previous billing policy, which charged developers 15%-30% commission, and termed the new policy an attempt by Google to circumvent the CCI’s antitrust directions. It also claimed that the new norms project a “hoax of giving liberty to app developers to opt for third-party payment processors,” while the marketplace remains vulnerable to Google’s abuse of its dominant position.
A verdict on the matter is expected soon, and it could set a major precedent in what the startups call a fight against Google’s monopoly.