India’s competition watchdog initiated a probe into Google looking to examine whether the company favoured its payments service by abusing the market position of its Android operating system and Google Play Store, adding to challenges stemming from increased competition in the segment.

In a statement, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) said the investigation followed claims the company was “unfairly privileging Google Pay” by skewing search results on Google Play Store and “prominently placing” the payments service during the initial set-up of Android smartphones.

An informant, cited by the regulator, also accused Google of promoting Google Pay over “other competing apps, to the disadvantage of both” users and apps enabling payments through the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) system.

Going forward, the claims suggested Google insisted apps on its app store had to support Google Pay for in-app purchases before being listed on the Play Store.

The claimant said Google’s practice was similar to Apple’s app store approach, in terms of charging developers a commission of 30 per cent to use the Play Store billing system and in-app billing.

CCI said Google denied the allegations, claiming Android faced “significant competition from feature phone operating systems” in India, adding its services fee of 30 per cent was not “arbitrary”, but was “market based, legitimate, and pro-competitive” as it allowed it to cover third-party fees and support its investments in Google Play Store.

Google Pay’s position in the India market was recently shaken up by the entry of a rival offering by WhatsApp and the loss of its top spot by competitor PhonePe.