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Google being probed by India's antitrust watchdog for abuse of Android dominance

The investigation is similar to the one conducted by EU where Google was fined $4.34 billion.

  • Published: February 13, 2019 12:55 PM IST

Google is now under the scanner of Competition Commission of India over abuse of Android mobile operating system to block rivals. India’s antitrust commission, according to Reuters, is looking into a case for the past six months that is similar to the one Google faced in Europe. The search giant was fined $4.34 billion by European antitrust regulators for abuse of powers last year. While Google has challenged that order, the verdict has led to increase scrutiny of Google and Android around the world and India is one of the many countries looking into whether Google abused Android to block rivals.

The European Commission, in its report, found that Google had abused its market dominance with Android since 2011. It said that Google forced its OEM partners to pre-install Google Search and its Chrome browser along with other apps such as Google Play on Android devices and deemed it as sign of abuse of power. “It is on the lines of the EU case, but at a preliminary stage,” one of the sources aware of the CCI investigation told Reuters. Google declined to comment on the investigation while CCI did not respond to Reuters‘ queries.

According to the report, Google executives have met Indian antitrust officials at least once to discuss the complaint in recent months. The complaint was reportedly filed by a group of individuals and the Competition Commission could ask its investigations unit to further look into the accusations against Google. If it finds the complaint lacks merit then it will be thrown out but the EU verdict will loom large on the investigations unit. It could take years for this investigation to complete.

Android is the most dominant mobile platform in the world and in India, it is even more prominent. Google’s mobile operating system has a market share of over 70 percent globally and in India, its market share jumps to over 85 percent. About 98 percent of the smartphones sold in 2018 used Android, according to data from Counterpoint Research. All these metrics will weigh in the investigation.

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After the EU verdict, Google announced in October that it would charge smartphone makers a fee for using Google Play Store. It also announced that the company will let them use rival versions of Android in order to comply with the EU order. The change, the company said, will be covered only in the European Economic Area, which comprises of the 28 EU countries and Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

“The CCI will have a tough time not initiating a formal investigation into Google given the EU case, unless they can show the problem has been addressed (by remedies),” one of the sources told Reuters. The investigation comes on the heels of a verdict last year where the antitrust watchdog imposed a fine of 1.36 billion rupees ($19 million) on Google after finding the company abused its dominant position as search provider. The verdict also found Google placed its own flight search function in a prominent position on search pages.

  • Published Date: February 13, 2019 12:55 PM IST