Google has threatened to sue the Competition Commission of India (CCI), the antitrust authority said today as the tech giant moved the Delhi High Court over what is described as the “leak of a confidential report” linked to an investigation. The exchange unfolded in the court days after a Reuters report said that Google abused the dominant position of its Android operating system in India, using its “huge financial muscle” to illegally hurt competitors, citing a two-year probe by the CCI.
“We have received a communication from a very senior officer of Google from California threatening the CCI Chairman that they will sue us. They are threatening us. If there is a leak by media, they can go and sue the media,” the CCI told the court today.
“We are a government body. What shows that we leaked the report? Also what is the confidential information of Google that has been leaked through these media reports?” it further asked, alleging an attempt by the tech giant to “frustrate the proceedings”, and stressing on the dismissal of the petition.
“In the next 10 days or so, the confidential and non-confidential reports will be ready and a copy will be served to them asking for their response. That’s the natural justice process. They want a stay on the proceedings, which is against natural justice,” the court was told by the CCI.
Senior lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing Google, told the court, “The confidential inquiry report has been leaked to media even before we have been served a copy. Reuters has reported on the inquiry report in detail. Leaks are happening everyday. It’s habitually happening.”
“Also, there is (a) complete denial of natural justice. Yesterday, after our plea in the high court, we have received a communication from (the) CCI that it’s a serious matter and we will order an enquiry into the leak.”
To this, Justice Rekha Pali replied: “It’s okay. Even before our orders are uploaded, they are reported by media.”
Mr Singhvi, however, underlined, “It’s different here. There is a confidentiality clause for this inquiry.”
As Justice Palli stressed, “if there is a confidentiality clause, it has to be maintained”, the CCI replied, “Wherever the Google wanted confidentiality – like the signatories, internal data on YouTube content, search queries, App downloads etc – we have maintained it. In fact we are helping them here… but they are accusing us.” The hearing will resume on Monday.
Alphabet Inc’s Google reduced “the ability and incentive of device manufacturers to develop and sell devices operating on alternative versions of Android,” Reuters had reported, citing the CCI’s investigations unit’s June report.
The US tech giant told Reuters in a statement it looks forward to working with the CCI to “demonstrate how Android has led to more competition and innovation, not less.”
In a statement, Google on Thursday said it has “filed a writ petition in the Delhi High Court, seeking redress in this matter, specifically protesting against the breach of confidence which impairs Google’s ability to defend itself and harms Google and its partners.”
“Protecting confidential information is fundamental to any governmental investigation, and we are pursuing our legal right to seek redress and prevent any further unlawful disclosures,” a Google spokesperson said in the statement.
5Comments“… We hope and expect the same level of confidentiality from the institutions we engage with,” the spokesperson added.