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Google moves a motion before Madras HC seeking dismissal of Disney’s suit

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Tech giant Google has moved a motion before Madras High Court seeking dismissal of the suits filed by Disney+Hotstar and Testbook in the Google Play billing matter.

The Madras High Court on Thursday posted the matter to August 23. The petitioners have been granted time till August 21 to reply. Until then the interim order of the Madras High Court as regards the Disney and Testbook’s case continues, sources said.

User choice billing system

It maybe recalled that Disney+Hotstar was one of the 16 companies that had approached Madras High Court seeking relief against Google’s coercion to enroll in ‘User Choice Billing’ system and accepting its updated payments policy.

While restraining Google from delisting Disney+Hotstar’s App from its Play Store (App store), the Madras High Court had in its interim order directed Google to charge the streaming service in India 4 per cent of the in-app payment received by the developer. 

The temporary 4 per cent is a fee that the App developer (Disney+Hotstar in this case) will have to pay to Google each month while the legal proceedings play out in court.

The Madras High Court had recently cautioned Disney+Hotstar that it may lose its interim protection in the Play Store billing case if it does not pay up the 4 per cent commission on in-App payments to Google as advised by the Court as an interim arrangement.

While making this direction to Disney+ Hotstar to pay the amount, the Madras High Court had posted the matter for August 16. Now, the matter has been posted for August 23, sources said.

Disney+Hotstar has till date not paid this 4 per cent fee (as advised by the Madras High Court) to Google.

The High Court had also directed Disney +Hotstar to provide monthly financial information so that Google can collect this fee in a timely manner.

Google Play Billing Case 

CCI had on October 25 last year passed an order in Google Play billing policy case where Google was directed to allow third party billing system other than Google Play Billing System (GPBS).

Domestic start-ups lauded the CCI’s move, since Google then charged a 30 per cent commission for its billing system, whereas the then prevailing market rate was around 2 percent to 5 percent.

Post the CCI order, Google had in January this year expanded its User Choice Billing (UCB) policy to all developers in India and updated its UCB policy that went into effect from April 26. However the service fee charged was as high as 26% (just 4 percentage points drop from its earlier policy).

Start-ups had moved CCI stating that Google is not complying with its October 25 order in true spirit. 

Meanwhile, Google issued notices to Startups to either accept UCB or else they will be delisted. 

Between April 2023 to July 2023, about 16 app developers in India had approached the Madras High Court seeking relief against Google coercion to enrol in ‘User Choice Billing’ and accepting Google’s updated Payments Policy.

If not, these app developers have been threatened to be delisted from the Play Store. 

The Madras High Court granted interim protection to the app developers by prohibiting Google from delisting their apps from the Play Store, in lieu of a payment of 4% monthly gross revenue to Google from their Play Store apps. 

In response, Google filed applications with the Madras High Court seeking rejection of various commercial suits (primarily on grounds of lack of jurisdiction).

The Madras High Court on August 3, 2023 ruled on Google’s application(s) and dismissed the commercial suits filed by 14 app developers (along with the interim protection). 

The Court ruled that the matter squarely fell in the domain of the Competition Commission of India. 

Disney+Hotstar and Testbook are the two other Suits (out of total 16 suits) where Madras High Court is yet to pass final orders.





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