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The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has initiated a probe to understand if Google is giving users the choice to pay through platforms apart from Google Pay, according to media reports.

The CCI is also trying to understand if Google is trying to gain an unfair advantage on its platform by leveraging user data for its own payment platform.

The central agency will also find out if Google has created restrictions for other payment companies to gain an unfair advantage. It will further examine if Google is abiding by the government’s zero-merchant discount rate (MDR) policy.

“We are trying to understand about the digital payment ecosystem and how Google can give preference to its Google Pay service for payments on different platforms through any possible data-sharing patterns between its payments entity and sister platforms like Google Play,” sources said.

The market regulator is holding face-to-face interviews with rival payment firms, including PhonePe and Paytm Payments Bank, as part of the probe, media reports said.

Digital payments platforms in India had earlier complained about Google Pay being the default option for payments on Google Play Store.

They also alleged that Google was abusing the market dominance of its Android mobile operating system to charge an arbitrary 30 percent commission for in-app purchases through apps listed on its Play Store and manipulating ad keywords to push Google Pay.

Google had denied the allegations in its response to CCI last July.

The CCI had ordered the probe in November last, but a formal probe began in January after the appointment of an additional director-general.

“CCI is still at a nascent point of the investigation and is trying to approach the matter from the perspective of app bundling with the Android OS, search manipulations where Google Pay appears on the top when a user searches for a payment use-case such as recharge on (Google search); and leveraging Google properties and data such as YouTube and Play Store to plant advertisements for its payment service, through ad personalization,” media reports said.

CCI is also examining an October 2020 complaint that claimed Google was abusing its dominant market position in smart television operating systems.

The CCI is conducting the investigation on the lines of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) policy where possible data sharing between the Google suite of products can lead to unfair competitive advantage for its payment service.

CNIL, the data protection authority of France, had fined Google $57 million in 2019 for not obtaining user consent to process data for ad personalization, citing a clear violation of GDPR norms.


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