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India has allowed millions to open bank accounts and pay in one click, says EU antitrust chief

India stack has managed to provide digital identification to almost 90% of the population and has enabled millions of people and businesses to receive payments digitally throughout the pandemic, Margrethe Vestager, European Commissioner for Competition on Wednesday said while complimenting the various public digital goods which have been built by India in the last few years.

Speaking at Carnegie India’s Global Technology Summit co-hosted with the Ministry of External Affairs on Wednesday, she said India has allowed millions of people to open bank accounts and pay in one click and to easily transfer money which increases revenue not just for big players, but also for small shop and street vendors.

“The India stack shows that if we want people to embrace technologies, we need trust and inclusiveness,” Vestager said. “This is exactly what we’re also pushing here with our European approach to digitization. The European Union is adopting a declaration of digital rights and principles. This will set in stone the idea that the rights we have offline, we also have online.”

She explained that the right to privacy, the right to be protected from illegal or harmful content should all be ensured through the rights to excellent connectivity, no matter where a person lives or how much they earn. She said these principles were also core in the EU’s work to regulate digital platforms. With the DIgital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act, she said the EU was imposing new obligations on large platforms.
“With power comes responsibility so they (platforms) must respect and protect us as users,” Vestager said. “They must also keep the digital market open and fair, so that smaller businesses can thrive based on their own merits, and not on the decisions of a gatekeeper.”

Her comments come a month after the Indian anti monopolies watchdog, the CCI came down heavily on Google in two verdicts. On October 20, the CCI imposed a fine of Rs 1,337.76 crore on the search giant for the abuse of its dominant position in multiple markets through the Android operating system. Five days later, the CCI imposed a further penalty of Rs 936.44 crore on Google for making its in-house payment and billing system mandatory for paid apps and in-app purchases on its Play Store.

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Nick Clegg, global president policy affairs Meta, who was among the other speakers at the event said that if India, the US and the European Union – the ‘three great techno-democracies of the world’ – could broadly align on internet regulation, it would be a huge development.

“There are dialogues going on and some of them are two way or occasionally three way. But if India, the US and the EU can agree on broad principles which are some of the very foundational governance questions, I think that will be transformative,” he said.

Christophe Kiener, EU Chief Negotiator for Trade in response to a question, said that if India went easy on data localisation the EU and India could together “create a diamond standard for data protection.”

Interestingly, the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2022 has allowed for the transfer of personal data outside India to ‘trusted geographies’ which eased data localization concerns that many large technology platforms had raised initially.

Mohandas Pai, Co-founder and Chairman, Aarin Capital and 3one4 Capital on his part flagged concerns about the rise of digital monopolies. He said governments are no more the biggest challenge.

“The biggest challenge to humanity and geopolitics is the rise of digital monopolies,” Pai said. “Apple has 2 billion people (which) is bigger than any country, Alphabet has 4 billion people on Android and Android system, even though open source controls the technology. And Amazon, of course, is the big fish in the room. (These are) Great companies, but what about us as citizens?”

He followed this up by saying that if one were to look at the capture of the mobile operating systems, Alphabet is 71% while iOS is 27%. Similarly, (Google) Search has 92% marketshare while social media giant Meta enjoys 79% marketshare. Pai said these are large numbers and hence, this means huge volumes of data – most of which is stored in the US as the country has dominance over data like no other country.

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