Baglekar Akash Kumar v. Google LLC

Citation – Case No. 39 of 2020

Court – Competition Commission of India

Bench – Ashok Kumar Gupta Chairperson Ms Sangeeta Verma Member Mr Bhagwant Singh Bishnoi Member

Date of Judgment – 29/01/2021

 Facts of the Case

Google provides its users with a variety of online products and services. Gmail and Google’s Meet App were the subject of the current case. It lets users to send and receive emails, direct messages, and other types of messages through Gmail, as well as hold video conferences and meetings using the Meet App.

Gmail and Meet App were connected by Google. The Informant challenged this integration as an abuse of dominant position under the Competition Act of 2002. Because Gmail possessed a dominant position in the relevant market, the Informant, a university student, claimed that Google utilised its dominant position in one relevant market to join another relevant market in violation of section 4(2)(e) of the Act.

Issues

  1. What were the relevant markets in the instant case, viz., the relevant market in which Google was alleged to hold a dominant position, i.e., the primary relevant market and the relevant market which it sought to enter?
  2. Whether Gmail was in a dominant position in the former relevant market?
  3. Whether the act of integration of Gmail and Meet App by Google amounted to an abuse of dominant position?

Laws

  1. Section 4 of the Competition Act,
  2. Section 26(2) of the Competition Act
  3. Section 19(1)(a) of the Competition Act,
  4. Section 4(2)(e) of the Competition Act

Contentions made by the Informant

In the market for “internet connected service and products,” Google held a commanding dominance. It was taking use of its dominant position in the aforementioned area to expand into a new market through Meet App.

Contentions made by the Respondents

Google claimed that the information provided by the informant was unfounded and based solely on conjectures, speculation, and fear.

Furthermore, the Informant had to show that there was a prima facie case that warranted the Director-investigation. General’s The informer’s locus standi was contested by the opposing party.

It stated the following arguments in response to the charge of misuse of a dominating position levelled against it:

Google did not have a dominant position in the market for “internet related services and products,” because there is no such sector. It could hardly be claimed to be in a dominant position in such a market if one exists.

It was not dominating in India’s “emailing and direct messaging” industry due to the presence of competitors with similar or higher market positions.

The integration was made to help Gmail users. The restriction of such functionality additions, such as Meet App, would be harmful to customers.

The integration was established in response to the competition provided by competitors like Facebook and Microsoft.

Decision of the Competition Commission of India

CCI stated that, In the argument, Google stated that Gmail does not have a dominant position in emailing and direct messaging in India, and that it is up against a slew of messaging services, many of which are on par with or better than Gmail. The CCI was of the opinion that, regardless of whether Gmail is a dominant app in the relevant market of providing email services in India or not, Google’s conduct did not violate the provisions of Section 4(2) (e) of the Act because the Informant did not place any substantive material on record in support of the assertions made.

The argument stated by CCI was that Gmail users were not obligated to use Google Meet, and there were no negative consequences for refusing to use Google Meet, such as the removal of Gmail or any of its functions or other Google services currently available. Any of the competing video conferencing apps can be used by a Gmail user at their ‘free will.’

It was also mentioned that anyone with a Google Account (but not necessarily a Gmail user) can use Google Meet to create an online meeting. Furthermore, the user does not need to be a Gmail user to create a Google account. He or she can create a Google account with an email address created on any other platform. As a result, Google Meet is also available as a standalone app outside of the Gmail ecosystem. Consumers can pick from a variety of video-conferencing apps such as Zoom, Skype, Cisco Webex, We Conference, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet, which are all competing for the same services.

The CCI also looked at the Meet tab’s connection with Gmail from the standpoint of imposing supplemental duties under Section 4(2)(d) of the Act. The CCI believes that customers should have the option of using either of the Apps with all of its features without having to use the other. Despite the fact that the Meet tab has been integrated into the Gmail app, Gmail does not force users to use Meet solely as Google has requested, and consumers are free to use Meet or any other Video Conferencing software. Finally, the CCI decided that the complaint against Google was not viable since their actions did not violate Section 4 of the Act.

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