The regulator said Google leveraged its dominant position in “multiple markets”, including online search and app store for Android.
India’s competition regulator has ordered Alphabet Inc’s Google to change its approach to its Android platform and fined the United States tech company 13.38 billion Indian rupees ($161.95m) for anti-competitive practices.
The Competition Commission of India (CCI) was investigating whether Google had assumed dominant position 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. Google was dominant in all of those relevant markets, the regulator concluded.
In particular, Google leveraged its dominant position in markets, such as online search and the app store for Android, to protect the position of its apps like Chrome and YouTube in mobile web browsers and online video hosting.
India is Google’s largest market by users. Google’s Android operating system powers 97% of the country’s 600 million smartphones, according to research firm Counterpoint.
CCI also restricted Google from certain revenue-sharing agreements with smartphone makers, noting that such practices helped Google to secure exclusivity for its search services “to the total exclusion of competitors”.
“Markets should be allowed to compete on merits and the onus is on the dominant players (in the present case, Google) that its conduct does not impinge this competition on merits,”
CCI said in a statement.
Google declined to comment on the order.
As noted by Engadget, historically, Google has required that phones with the Play Store installed also include apps like Chrome and YouTube, often with prominent placement on the home screen. While you can always install alternatives like Firefox and Vimeo, they're not included out of the box. Brands can use the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) if they want more flexibility, but they lose access to the Play Store in the process.
The regulator ordered Google on Thursday not to restrict smartphone users from uninstalling its pre-installed apps like Google Maps and Gmail. CCI also asked Google to allow users to pick their search engine of choice for all relevant services while setting up a phone for the first time.
Google is facing increasing scrutiny from regulators around the world as governments begin to worry about the scale of the tech giants and assess whether bigtechs are hurting local companies.
Sources: The Hindu, TechCrunch