India fines Google $162 million for anti-competitive practices on Android

India’s competition regulator fined Google $161.9 million on Thursday for anti-competitive practices related to Android mobile devices in “multiple markets” in a major setback for the search giant in the key country. overseas where it has paid billions of dollars over the past decade.

India’s Competition Commission, which opened an investigation into Google three and a half years ago after a complaint from two junior associates and a law student, said in a press release that Google was forcing device manufacturers to pre-install its entire Google Mobile suite and required the visible placement of these apps “amounts to imposing unfair terms on device manufacturers” and was therefore “in violation of the provisions of Article 4(2 )(a)(i) of the law”.

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

In 2020, Google pledged to invest $10 billion in the South Asian market over the next few years. It has already funded up to $5.5 billion in local telecom giants Jio Platforms and Airtel.

The competition regulator’s handling of the highly anticipated report itself made headlines last year after a draft of its findings was obtained and reported by the press. In response, Google decided to take the regulator to court over the leaked report and protested the “breach of trust,” which it says undermines its ability to “defend itself and harms Google and its partners.” “.

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

Google perpetuated its dominant position in the online search market, resulting in the denial of market access to competing search applications, in violation of Section 4(2)(c) of the Act.

Google leveraged its dominant position in the Android OS app store market to protect its position in general online search in violation of section 4(2)(e) of the Act.

Google took advantage of its dominant position in the market for application stores for the Android operating system to penetrate and protect its position in the market for non-OS-specific web browsers via the Google Chrome application and thus infringes the provisions of Article 4, paragraph 2, point e) of the Law.

Google took advantage of its dominant position in the application store market for Android OS to enter and protect its position in the OVHP market via YouTube and thus violated the provisions of Article 4(2)(e) of the law.

Google, by making pre-installation of Google proprietary apps (specifically Google Play Store) conditional on AFA/ACC signing for all Android devices manufactured/distributed/marketed by device manufacturers, has reduced the ability and encouraging device manufacturers to develop and sell devices running on alternative versions of Android, i.e. Android forks and thereby limiting technical or scientific development to the detriment of consumers, in violation of the provisions of section 4(2)(b)(ii) of the Act.

The watchdog was investigating whether Google had gained a dominant position in five different markets: licensed operating system 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.

The antitrust watchdog said in its statement that device makers shouldn’t be forced to install Google’s bouquet of apps and the search giant shouldn’t deny access to its Play Services APIs. and monetary and other incentives to suppliers.

The regulator’s order could slow Google’s pace of growth in the market, analysts said. And it’s unclear exactly how Google can comply with the remedies without making fundamental changes to its business strategies.

Google faces increasing scrutiny from governments around the world as policymakers begin to worry about the tech giants’ reach and whether it’s hurting local businesses. Google lost its appeal against a record $4.3 billion fine in the EU for using Android’s dominance to thwart competition. It is also subject to the new German regulations which target large companies.

Two years ago, more than 150 startups and companies in India started working to form an alliance and considered launching an app store to reduce their dependence on Google. The pushback prompted Google to delay enforcing its new Play Store billing rule in the country.

Jagmeet Singh contributed to the report.