Google Sues Antitrust Regulator Over Investigation Report Leak
Technology giant Google has approached the Delhi High Court, complaining against the leak of a confidential report in an ongoing investigation by the Competition Commission of India against it.
The report relates to an anti-trust investigation by the competition regulator into Google’s android smartphones agreements. The petition was mentioned on Thursday morning by Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi before the Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court.
On Sept. 18, the Times of India newspaper reported that the regulator's investigative arm, the Director General, had found Google's conduct to be anti-competitive in the mobile operating systems and related markets.
The probe found Google India guilty of stifling competition and innovation to the detriment of the market as well as consumers in order to maintain its grip and dominance in search, music (through YouTube), browser (chrome), app library (Play Store) and other key services, the daily reported.
The competition law promises confidentiality to entities under CCI investigation and gives them the right to claim, negotiate non-disclosure of commercially sensitive information obtained as part of a DG investigation. Once the DG submits its report to the CCI, parties to an investigation get an opportunity to rebut the findings. Only after that, the regulator gives a final order.
It's Google's case that even before a final order could be issued by the regulator, findings in the DG report have become public. The leak has resulted in breach of confidence, has impaired its ’’ability to defend itself, harmed Google and its partners", the tech giant said.
The investigation against Google was ordered by the CCI in April 2019. In its prima facie order, the regulator had noted that the Mobile Application Distribution Agreement that Google signed with device manufacturers required them to preinstall the entire suite of Google apps in order to be able to preinstall any proprietary app of Google—Play Store.
The signing of the Android Compatibility Commitment was also an essential condition of the distribution agreement.
Since Play Store is a must-have app, marketability of Android devices may get restricted if these agreements aren't signed. The CCI took a prima facie view that mandatory pre-installation of the entire Google Mobile Services suite under the distribution agreement amounted to imposition of unfair conditions on the device manufacturers.
And so, it directed an investigation by the DG. It's the alleged leak of this investigation report that has Google miffed.
Protecting confidential information is fundamental to any governmental investigation, and we're pursuing our legal right to seek redress and prevent any further unlawful disclosures. We cooperated fully and maintained confidentiality throughout the investigative process, and we hope and expect the same level of confidentiality from the institutions we engage with.Google statement
The DG’s findings are an interim procedural step and do not reflect the final decision of the competition regulator. It has not yet had the opportunity to review the DG’s findings or submit its defence to any allegations, Google has stated in a media release.
BloombergQuint awaits CCI's response to Google's complaint. The high court is likely to take up the case on Friday.