India fines Google $162mn for anti-competitive practices

Google anti-competitive India
Image by sergei_elagin | Bigstockphoto

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s competition regulator on Thursday ordered Alphabet Inc’s Google to change its approach to its Android platform and fined the US tech company 13.38 billion Indian rupees ($161.95 million) for anti-competitive practices.

Google leveraged position

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) said Google leveraged its dominant position in markets such as online search and app store for Android, to protect the position of its apps like Chrome and YouTube in mobile Web browsers and online video hosting.

Google anti-competitive Android
Google Play Store apps. Image by bigtunaonline | Bigstockphoto

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.”

Google declined to comment on the order.

“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.

The US company is facing a series of antitrust cases and the tightening of existing tech-sector regulations in India.

Other potentially anti-competitive behaviour

The competition watchdog is separately looking into Google’s business conduct in the smart TV market and its in-app payments system.

The Android-related probe, started in 2019, was sparked by a complaint from two junior Indian antitrust research associates and a law school student. The Indian case is similar to one faced by Google in Europe, where regulators imposed a $5 billion fine on the company for forcing manufacturers to pre-install its apps on Android devices.

Google was ordered by India 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’s Android operating system powers 97% of India’s 600 million smartphones, according to Counterpoint Research.

($1 = 82.6180 Indian rupees)

(Reporting by Munsif Vengattil and Aditya Kalra in New DelhiAdditional Reporting by Nallur Sethuraman in BengaluruEditing by Devika Syamnath, Peter Graff and Matthew Lewis)

Related article: Google abused dominant position of Android in India: antitrust authority

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