google: Indian startups urge Google to not delist any app developers from Play Store till March 19

A cluster of Indian startups has written to Google requesting the search giant not to delist them or take ‘any precipitative steps’ against any app developers till March 19 when their Special Leave Petition (SLP) comes up for hearing.

“Around 30 companies wrote to Google on Monday requesting not to be delisted until the SLP is heard,” a person aware of the developments told ET. “We expect more companies to join in and send the letter to Google as we are all completely dependent on the Play Store.”

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In a setback to app developers, startups and others, the Supreme Court on Friday refused to restrain Google from “delisting” their apps from its Play Store, an order that will make way for the removal of their apps from the Google Play Store, if they don’t agree with the US tech major’s billing policy.

However, a Bench led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud while seeking a response from Google India agreed to hear a batch of over 10 appeals challenging the tech giant’s alleged new “illegal” user choice billing policy.

In the letter which has been reviewed by ET, the companies said any precipitative step taken by Google would be “extremely detrimental” to all the participants of the ecosystem comprising of start-ups and app developers.

They went on to say that previously too Google had voluntarily extended its enforcement of Google Billing Payment System and User Choice Billing multiple times.

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“No irreparable harm or injury would be suffered by Google, in case it does not take any precipitative actions against any developers,” they said. “We therefore request you to exercise restraint and not take any precipitation action to delist any apps from the Google Play Store.”The app developers had filed an SLP against the judgement delivered by the Madras High Court on January 19 which was listed on February 9 before the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court directed the SLP to be listed on March 19.

The appeal was filed against the judgement of Madras High Court, which essentially provided that the issue of user choice billing must be agitated before the CCI. The developers said certain proceedings with respect to user choice billing are pending before CCI and is pending adjudication.

“All this while from the time of initiation of the litigation before the High Court of Madras in March 2023 till now, we have been protected against any delisting from the Google Play Store by way of an interim order and have been making payments to you at the rate of 4% on download and In App Revenue,” the startups said.

Last August, the Madras High Court dismissed 14 out of 16 petitions against Google’s billing policy. The remaining two petitions, submitted by Disney+Hotstar and Testbook, await further consideration. Justice S Sounthar said the pleas fell under the jurisdiction of the Competition Commission of India (CCI) and not within the ambit of a civil court.