The striking down of the Competition Commission of India’s (CCI) order which allowed app developers to distribute their apps through what is called sideloading, instead of going through Google’s Play Store, is the biggest relief the tech major has got from the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal’s (NCLAT) order.
This will also come as a big relief to the government as it had raised security-related concerns.
The concern within the government over the CCI’s order was that it could lead to security implications. For instance, if Google or Apple are not in control of the apps which get loaded onto their devices, checking those which could be a security hazard may pose a problem.
The government was able to ban all Chinese apps in 2020 at the height of Indo-China border tensions only because there was no provision of sideloading. “If sideloading is allowed, in the event of demand by the government to ban any app, players like Google and Apple could have expressed their helplessness because they would not be fully in control,” officials said.
The three other modifications to the CCI’s order by the NCLAT can also be seen as a kind of victory for Google as it largely restores the status quo with regards to the way its Play Store functioned. Google will now not need to allow hosting of third party app stores on its Play Store or restrict removing of its pre-installed apps such as Google Maps, Gmail, and YouTube by users.
The other issue on which the government felt relief with the NCLAT’s order is that it does not come in the way of its efforts to make India a hub for global technology players, who want to relocate from countries like China and Vietnam. It has been successful in doing so to quite an extent with Apple, but had received a temporary setback in the case of Google.
In the aftermath of the CCI’s order, the technology major had put on hold its plans to shift the manufacturing of its Pixel phones to India from China till the judicial process was over.
Though Google is likely to appeal against the NCLAT’s order in the Supreme Court, the four counts on which it has received relief will enable it to go ahead with its plans to manufacture Pixel phones in India as originally planned, officials feel.
“To adjudicate on competition matters of technology with far-ranging repercussions, the CCI needs to be mindful of the government’s well thought out policy considerations that have been arrived after several layers of consultations and research,” officials told Fe, adding, “Complex matters with wide-ranging implications call for inter-ministerial consultations rather than any unilateral action.”