Industry body wants regulation on Google Playstore, search & other platforms

In a bid to end the biases in web search and web advertising, Aatmnirbhar Digital India Foundation (ADIF), an industry body representing India’s digital and technology startups, wants Information Technology act provisions for regulating App Store’s and search engines, an industry dominated by Google Playstore and Google search.

“Any search bias or advertisement bias should be restricted on Playstore and Search platforms. High platform fees charged by the leading app play store or any large needs to be regulated under IT act provisions, similar to MDR charges capping to merchants by RBI Government may consider towards framing regulations/guidelines restricting the bidding of IP keywords to take advantage of platform or competition. Need to have a Digital Regulatory Body of India, similar to TRAI to regulate operations and pricing of Critical Digital Organizations with more than a specific user base,” states the ADIF release.

An ADIF panel including Ramesh Abhishek, Ex-Secretary of Department for Promotion of Industry, and Internal Trade (DPIIT), Rajesh Magow, Cofounder and Group CEO of MakeMyTrip, Murugavel Janakiraman, Founder & CEO of Matrimony.com, Rohan Verma, CEO of Map My India, Ajay Data, Founder and CEO, Data Xgen Technologies, also ADIF Secretary-General and Ashim Sood, Supreme Court Advocate, discussed the issue and plan to work with the government and regulators to draft India specific laws and policy framework to ensure a level playing field for Indian digital organization

Another critical issue discussed by the panel was the need for the government’s intervention to ensure that no organisation-specific keywords were permitted for bidding by third parties in Google Ads policy. This has come in the wake of the Delhi High Court order in favour of Makemytrip where the Court directed Google to suspend the advertising account of HappyEasyGo on the Google Ads Programme. 

“Owing to unfair policies by leading Big Tech platforms, the usage and bidding on company name specific keywords such as Matrimony, Map My India is allowed. This has resulted in other companies selling similar products and services to capitalize on the brand value of the companies, putting existing companies at a greater disadvantage. To feature at the top of the search results, Indian startups have shelled out extra money to safeguard their own company name that was being used as keywords, says the release.

Ashim Sood, Supreme Court, Advocate said that the judicial delays sometimes come in the way of an entrepreneur being able to protect his mark to the fullest extent – many times the fact of whether a trademark was violated comes down to evidence, and this evidence only becomes available in a trial that lasts years. This, coupled with the dominance of Google in the search market renders local entrepreneurs vulnerable. There does need to be a discussion-based regulatory initiative to deal with the issue. 

The industry body has also suggested 5% of profits generated from the Indian Digital ecosystem should be mandated to be reinvested in Indian government initiatives to promote a startup ecosystem, research, and innovation in the country.

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