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Regulating Big-Techs: India & Abroad

The article explores the conflict between Google and Indian firms over alleged abuse of market dominance, regulatory responses, concerns in Big Tech operations, and proposed regulatory measures.

Introduction

The conflict between a major technology giant like Google and numerous Indian firms began years ago when app developers lodged a complaint with the Competition Commission of India (CCI). The complaint alleged that Google was abusing its dominant position in the Android and Play Store ecosystem, specifically by pressuring app developers to use its proprietary billing system.

Current Situation and Regulatory Response

The situation continues to unfold, with the CCI directing its Director General to conduct an investigation and submit a report within 60 days. It is possible that the outcome, as anticipated by the CCI, will find Google’s actions in violation of the Competition Act, 2002.

Understanding Big-Tech Firms
  • Market Dominance and Influence: Big Tech companies typically dominate their respective markets, exerting considerable influence over industry trends and consumer behavior.
  • Technological Innovation: These companies are known for driving advancements in various fields, from artificial intelligence to electric vehicles.
  • Data Collection and Privacy Concerns: Big Tech’s extensive data collection raises concerns about privacy and surveillance.
    Regulatory Scrutiny and Antitrust Concerns: Big Tech companies often face regulatory scrutiny due to their market dominance and alleged anti-competitive behavior.
Recent Regulatory Steps
  • The US Federal Trade Commission and the European Commission have initiated investigations and legal actions against major tech companies like Apple, Meta, and Google’s Alphabet.
  • In India, the CCI has imposed penalties on Google for anti-competitive practices and proposed amendments to competition laws through the Competition Amendment Bill, 2022.

Concerns in Functioning of Big-Techs

  • Prioritizing In-House Services: Big Tech companies have been accused of favoring their own services over competitors’, limiting choices for consumers.
  • Non-Compliance with Regulations: Investigations into non-compliance with regulations like the Digital Markets Act (DMA) in the EU and India’s Competition Act, 2002, highlight concerns over fair competition.
  • Ecosystem Captivity and Discriminatory Practices: Concerns exist over Apple’s ecosystem captivity and Meta’s binary choice subscription model, which may limit user choice and privacy.
  • Regulatory Vacuum and Arbitrary Pricing: Rapid innovation and lack of regulatory readiness contribute to challenges in regulating Big Tech, while arbitrary pricing exacerbates consumer issues.
Steps to Regulate Big-Techs

The Standing Committee on Finance has recommended measures to regulate digital markets, including identifying Systemically Important Digital Intermediaries (SIDIs) and introducing a Digital Competition Act.
Recommendations include addressing self-preferencing, data usage, revamping the CCI, ensuring access to third-party applications, and preventing bundling and tying practices.

Conclusion

Regulatory authorities like the European Commission and the CCI have taken significant steps to ensure fair competition in digital markets. However, challenges persist, and further regulatory measures are necessary to address concerns over market dominance and anti-competitive behavior by Big Tech companies.

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