After a two year probe, the antitrust authority of India has found that Google had abused the dominant position of its Android operating system in the country by using its “huge financial muscle” to illegally supress competition, claimed media reports based on the probe findings.
The report which was prepared by the Competition Commission of India’s (CCI) investigations unit concluded that Alphabet Inc’s Google reduced “the ability and incentive of device manufacturers to develop and sell devices operating on alternative versions of Android”.
In a response to the reports, the United States tech giant said in a statement that it is eager to work the CCI to “demonstrate how Android has led to more competition and innovation, not less.”
Reports also suggested that the investigation report had not been yet given to Google.
No comment on the issue was available from the CCI. Reports suggested that the report would be handed over to senior CCI members for a review while Google will be given another opportunity to defend itself against the allegations prior to issuing a final order. That order could include penalties, said reports quoting sources in the CCI.
Google will also have the opportunity to appeal against any order in any other Indian court.
Tis report is the latest hit to Google with respect to antitrust issues in India. The search engine giant also faces a number of other probes in the payments app and smart television markets. Investigations against the company have also been conducted in Europe, the United States and other countries of the world.
A fine of $180 million was slapped on Google this week by South Korea’s antitrust regulator for blocking customized versions of Android.
The report says that Google defended itself by arguing that it was not hurting competition and had submitted at least 24 responses during the probe. It also says that during the Google investigation there were 62 entities that responded to CCI questions, including responses from tech companies like Microsoft, Amazon.com, Apple, as well as smartphone makers like Samsung and Xiaomi.
According to Counterpoint Research, about 98 per cent of the 520 million smartphones in India is powered by Android.
While ordering the probe against Google in 2019, the CCI had said that the US firm had apparently leveraged its dominance and reduced the ability of device makers to go for alternate versions of its mobile operating system and had forced such companies to pre-install Google apps.
the mandatory pre-installation of apps “amounts to imposition of unfair condition on the device manufacturers” and as in violation to India’s competition law, found the 750-page report, while also pointing out that Google had misused the dominant market position of its Play Store app store.
The report says that the policies pursued by Google for its Play Store were “one-sided, ambiguous, vague, biased and arbitrary,” while Android has been “enjoying its dominant position” in licensable operating systems for smartphones and tablets since 2011.
For Google, India is a crucial growth market. Last year, the company had announced the investment of $10 billion in the country over a five to seven year period through equity investments and tie-ups.
(Adapted from CNBC.com)