Google’s “castle-and-moat strategy” killing competition, argues ASG

Fair trade regulator Competition Commission of India (CCI) on Thursday alleged that Google had created digital data hegemony and called for a market space with “free, fair and open competition”. Concluding the arguments of the CCI before the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) in the Google matter, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) N Venkataraman said that a market with greater freedom for all players would be in total sync with principles of free competition rather than the “walled-garden” approach of the internet major. 

On October 20 last year, the CCI had slapped a penalty of Rs 1,337.76 crore on Google for anti-competitive practices in relation to Android mobile devices. The regulator had also ordered the internet major to cease and desist from various unfair business practices. This ruling had been challenged by Google before the NCLAT.  

On Thursday, Mr Venkataraman submitted that Google had used its money-spinning search engine as the “castle” and the rest of the other apps to play the defensive role of “moat”. This “castle-and-moat” strategy was data hegemony, which meant that a big market player tended to get bigger and bigger, while a small entrant struggled to attain a critical mass of users and user data, he added. 

According to him, data capture and data deployment are getting exploited and monetised as advertisement revenues. When the choice is the guiding principle of the competition law, Google’s hegemony reduces both choice and competition. 

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