Only anti-competitive practices should be taken into account – No strict regulations on Big Tech companies: government


The government does not intend to impose strict regulations on Big Tech players such as Google, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft. Senior officials told FE that only competition-related issues, whenever they emerge, will be considered by the government as it does not want to stifle innovation by getting into micro-issues like algorithms, which are essential to the development of the ecosystem by technological players.

The government’s approach would be to examine anti-competitive practices on a case-by-case basis rather than drafting an omnibus law to regulate.

The question of some sort of regulatory framework for Big Tech companies has emerged again with the Parliamentary Finance Standing Committee, headed by BJP MP Jayant Sinha, looking into it. Last week, representatives from domestic tech startups like Flipkart, Paytm, Oyo Hotels and Homes, Ola, Zomato, Swiggy, and MakeMyTrip met with Sinha and highlighted the anticompetitive practices of Big Tech companies. Representatives of Big Tech companies are also due to meet Sinha soon to share their views on the matter.

According to officials, the key issue highlighted by domestic players is with algorithms which they say are designed by Big Tech companies in such a way that they do not benefit from a level playing field.

For example, since players like Google control the search engine and the front-end, their own applications always get a default preference when options are launched before users. Another issue is Google or Apple’s billing commission of up to 30% for in-app purchases.

Officials told FE that Google has postponed the implementation of the commission policy until October this year, but even if it doesn’t, there’s not much the government can do here because it doesn’t. is not the responsibility of each user. “More than 97% of the apps are free and even the few that attract commissions exceed a certain threshold in terms of value. Prima facie, we don’t find any anti-competitive practices here, but yes, tomorrow, if anti-competitive practices appear, “The government will surely look into it. But getting into Big Tech players’ algorithms to regulate their search engines is something we won’t get into,” officials said.

For example, if WhatsApp proposes a policy to share users’ business data with its sister company like Facebook, it would fall within the realm of competition laws or data protection laws and would be scrutinized. But there is no regulation that would require WhatsApp to design its algorithm to provide users with payment options other than WhatsApp Pay.

WhatsApp’s policy of sharing users’ business data with Facebook has already been challenged by the Ministry of Electronics and Computers and is being reviewed by the Competition Commission of India and the case is also before Delhi High Court.

Analysts who follow the industry have said that while big tech companies have been the beneficiaries of many of their practices around the world, any excessive regulation, such as the use of algorithms, would be harmful as it would stifle innovation. They also said India could ill afford such an approach.

“An Apple phone would obviously preload its own apps and similarly an Android phone will come with preloaded Google apps. But they give users the ability to download other apps, so what’s the problem?” “It would be absurd for each country to order Apple or Google to preload their national players’ apps in phones as well,” the analyst added.

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