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India fines Google $162M for anti-competitive apps on Android TechCrunch

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India’s competition regulator on Thursday fined Google $161.9 million for anti-competitive practices related to Android mobile devices in “multiple markets”.

The Competition Commission of India, which began investigating Google three and a half years ago after a complaint from two juniors and a law school student, said in a press release that Google has required device manufacturers to pre-install and mandate the entire Google Mobile Suite. conspicuous placement of these apps “constitutes unfair terms for device manufacturers” and is therefore “contrary to the provisions of Section 4(2)(a)(i) of the Act.”

India is Google’s largest market in terms of users. According to research firm Counterpoint, Google’s Android operating system powers 97% of the country’s 600 million smartphones.

Google has pledged to invest $10 billion in the South Asian market in the coming years in 2020. It has already raised up to $5.5 billion in financing in local telecom giants Jio Platforms and Airtel.

The competition regulator’s handling of the much-anticipated report made headlines last year after a draft of its findings was sourced and reported by the press. In response, Google took action to sue the regulator for the leak of the report, protesting a “breach of trust” that it said “impaired its ability to defend itself and harmed Google and its partners”.

In a statement Thursday, the regulator said it also found the following in its investigation:

Google maintained its dominant position in the online search market resulting in the blocking of access to competing search applications in violation of Section 4(2)(c) of the Code.

Google took advantage of its dominant position in the app store market for the Android operating system to maintain its position in online general search, in violation of Section 4(2)(e) of the Code.

Google strengthened its dominant position in the app store market to allow the Android operating system to enter and maintain its position in the non-OS-specific web browser market through the Google Chrome App, thereby violating the provisions of Section 4(2)(e). Behave.

Google took advantage of its dominant position in the app store market for Android OS to enter and maintain its position in the OVHPs market via YouTube, thereby violating the provisions of Section 4(2)(e) of the Code.

Google has reduced the ability and incentive of device manufacturers to develop and sell by making the pre-installation of Google’s proprietary apps (especially the Google Play Store) dependent on the signing of the AFA/ACC for all Android devices manufactured/distributed/marketed by device manufacturers. Devices running alternative versions of Android, i.e. Android forks, and therefore limited technical or scientific development to the detriment of consumers in violation of Section 4(2)(b)(ii) of the Law.

Watchdog was investigating whether Google dominates in five different markets: licensable OS for smartphones, app store, web search services, non-OS-specific mobile web browsers, and online video hosting platform in India.

The regulator concluded that Google was dominant in all these relevant markets.

The antitrust watchdog said in a statement that device manufacturers should not be forced to install Google’s app bundle, and that the search giant should not deny access to Play Services APIs and monetary and other incentives to vendors.

Analysts said the regulator’s order could slow Google’s pace of growth in the market. It is also unclear how Google will comply with the corrective measures without making some fundamental changes to its business strategies.

Google immediately declined to comment, telling TechCrunch that it has not yet received the order.

Google is facing increasing scrutiny from governments around the world, as policymakers begin to worry about the reach of tech giants and assess whether it’s hurting local companies. Google lost its appeal against a record $4.3 billion fine in the EU for using Android’s dominance to curb competition. It is also subject to Germany’s new regulation targeting large companies.

Two years ago, over 150 startups and firms in India started working to form an alliance and toyed with the idea of ​​opening an app store to reduce their dependency on Google. The feedback prompted Google to delay the implementation of the new Play Store billing rule in the country.

Jagmeet Singh contributed to the report.