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Disney+ Hotstar and other streaming platforms join fight against Google Play billing policy

The total number of companies who are fighting Google at Madras HC is now around 15.

In two separate developments, online streaming platform Disney+ Hotstar and streaming industry body Indian Digital Media Industry Foundation (IDMIF) are challenging Google Play Store’s billing policy:

  • Disney+ Hotstar joins fight at Madras HC: Disney+ Hotstar filed a lawsuit at the Madras High Court joining existing complainants like Matrimony.com, Unacademy, Altt, Aha, TrulyMadly, etc. Similar to the interim injunction given to these players, the court has barred Google from delisting Hotstar’s app from the Play Store while it hears the case, Economic Times reported on July 18. During this period, the streaming company, like the other players in this case, will only have to pay a 4 percent commission to Google (as opposed to the 15 to 30 percent that is normally applicable under Play Billing). The total number of companies who are fighting Google at Madras HC is now around 15.
  • IDMIF files complaint with CCI: Streaming industry body IDMIF, which represents platforms like Disney+ Hotstar, Zee5, Voot, SonyLIV, Manorama Max, SunNXT, and Discovery+, filed a complaint against Google with the Competition Commission of India (CCI) arguing that the commission charged by Play Store is unjustified, Economic Times reported on July 20. CCI has asked IDMIF to submit a detailed report. Parallel to the Madras HC challenge outlined above, the CCI is investigating Google on whether the company’s new billing policy complies with the antitrust order issued by the watchdog back in October 2022.

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“The order is interim in nature, and the temporary 4% figure is simply a fee that the developer will pay to Google each month while these legal proceedings play out,” Google told Reuters in response to the Disney challenge. MediaNama has reached out to Google for a comment on the challenge by IDMIF and will update the post once we get a response.

What’s Google’s latest billing policy: Google Play’s latest billing policy, User Choice Billing, announced by the company in January 2023, allows developers to feature a third-party billing system but only alongside Google’s billing system. And developers will have to pay Google an 11 to 26 percent commission if users pay through the third-party billing system and a 15 to 30 percent commission if users pay through Google’s billing system. In other words, developers cannot just use a third-party billing system like they used to do before and pay no commission to Google at all. The new policy went into effect on April 26, 2023, and Google has defended it publicly in a blog post.

What are the arguments against Google in front of CCI: The competition watchdog’s antitrust order from October last year requires Google Play to allow app developers to use third-party billing systems and not impose any “unfair, unreasonable, discriminatory or disproportionate” price conditions on developers. Google argues that its new billing policy (outlined above) complies with the CCI’s order, but app developers are arguing that it doesn’t. CCI is currently looking into the merits of the arguments being made by both sides.

What are the arguments against Google in Madras HC: Matrimony.com, which was the first to approach the Madras HC in April, argued that Google’s billing policy is in violation of various RBI guidelines because Google:

  • Charges fees on UPI transactions.
  • Doesn’t follow the required timelines for settlements.
  • Doesn’t clarify what part of the commission is for payment processing.
  • Co-mingles fund settlement with other businesses.

MediaNama has reviewed and summarised the petition in more detail here.

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