Calcutta High Court Rejects Hoichoi’s Plea Against Google Play Store Delisting: RBI to Make Final Call on Payment Aggregator Issue

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In a recent ruling, the Calcutta High Court has clarified that Google Play Store itself does not function as a Payment Aggregator (PA) but offers various payment methods without handling end-to-end payments. The court’s decision came in response to a plea by Bengali over-the-top (OTT) platform Hoichoi, seeking protection against delisting from the Google Play Store due to its non-acceptance of Google Play Billing System (GPBS).

Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya, while delivering the verdict, emphasized that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) holds the authority to decide on Hoichoi’s complaint alleging violations of the Payment and Settlement Systems Act, 2007 by Google Group companies through the use of GPBS.

The court observed that the issues raised are subject to RBI’s jurisdiction as the designated regulatory and adjudicatory authority under the PSS Act. It further noted that Hoichoi’s complaint against Google’s practices must be evaluated by the RBI, considering the complexities involved.

While the primary relief sought by Hoichoi was directed towards the RBI, the court underscored that the real concerns pertained to protection against delisting from the Play Store. Consequently, the plea for interim protection was declined, with the court highlighting a pending challenge before the Competition Commission of India (CCI) addressing similar issues.

Regarding the alleged violations by Google, the court refrained from intervening in RBI’s jurisdiction, emphasizing the need for regulatory autonomy. However, it acknowledged Hoichoi’s prompt action in filing the petition following its representation to the RBI.

The court’s analysis of the Google Play Developer Distribution Agreement concluded that Google Play services primarily charge service fees for hosting applications like Hoichoi, rather than functioning as a PA. The court highlighted that Google Play offers various payment methods, including Google Pay operated by an accredited PA, but does not directly handle end-to-end payment mechanisms.

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While dismissing the petition, the court entrusted the RBI with the responsibility of adjudicating the issues raised by Hoichoi, urging expeditious resolution within 12 weeks.

Hoichoi was represented by a team of advocates, including Sabyasachi Chowdhury and Rudraman Bhattacharya, while RBI was represented by advocate Suchismita Ghosh. The Google group of companies was represented by Senior Advocate SN Mookherjee and a team of advocates.

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