Google CCI: ETtech Explained | How the ICC’s Android decision could affect Google

Last October, India’s Competition Commission (ICC) ordered search giant Google to make fundamental changes to the license of its Android mobile operating system.

As the January 19 deadline to make these changes approaches, Google has argued that the guidelines could stunt the growth of the Android ecosystem in India, where 95-97% of smartphones run on its mobile operating system. .

But what are the changes ordered by the ICC, and how might they affect Android and Google?

At the heart of the Android file is an agreement that Google signs with smartphone manufacturers such as Samsung, Xiaomi, OnePlus and Oppo. The CCI said this Mobile Application Distribution Agreement (MADA) creates “significant barriers to entry” for Android app developers.

How does MADA affect competition?
The antitrust watchdog said via MADA Google is forcing smartphone makers to pre-install its own suite of apps that includes Search, Chrome, Gmail and Maps and more. This creates barriers to entry for competitors offering similar apps, the CCI argued.

So why are smartphone makers signing this deal?

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Although the main Android operating system is open source and therefore free, they must sign an agreement with Google to be able to include the Play Store on their phones, which Google bundles with its suite of applications. This agreement establishes several rules for manufacturers on how to host these applications and services.

What did the CCI ask Google to do?
In addition to imposing a penalty of Rs 1,337.76 crore, the ICC ordered Google to take the following corrective actions by January 19:

1. Google should not sign agreements with smartphone manufacturers guaranteeing the exclusivity of its search services.

2. It should not require smartphone manufacturers to pre-install applications such as YouTube, Maps and Gmail, and should not prevent users from removing these applications from their devices.

3. Google must allow hosting of third-party app stores that could compete with the Play Store.

4. It should not impose any restrictions on installing apps on Android phones from outside the Play Store.

5. It must allow users to choose a search engine of their choice when setting up a phone for the first time.

How did Google respond?
Google has argued that deals like MADA allow it to keep Android free for users. After the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal refused to stay the ICC order, the company appealed to the Supreme Court, claiming the order could stunt Android’s growth in India.

To comply with the order, it would have to modify its existing contracts, introduce new license agreements and modify existing agreements with more than 1,100 device makers and thousands of app developers, Google said. The Supreme Court will hear his case on January 16.

So what comes next?
A similar case in the European Union may offer a clue. In 2018, the European Commission fined Google $5 billion for allegedly trying to use Android to illegally dominate the search market. He began working on adhering to the guidelines while appealing the initial decision. The measures he took included:

  • Update its pacts with mobile manufacturers to allow them to build bifurcated smartphones or tablets in the European Economic Area (EEA).
  • Allow device manufacturers to license Google’s suite of mobile apps separately from the search app and Chrome. He postulated that since the pre-installation of Google Search and Chrome helped him fund the development and free distribution of Android, he would introduce a new paid license agreement for smartphones and tablets shipped to the EEA. .

Google appealed the EU decision to the General Court of the European Union, where it lost the case in September 2022. In December, it challenged the decision to the EU’s highest court, the Court of Justice of the European Communities.

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