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

Google is being probed by the Competition Commission of India in the exact same lines as the European Union, which imposed a fine of $5 billion in February.

  • Published: May 13, 2019 9:44 AM IST
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India is following on the footsteps of European Union’s Competition Commission and has launched an investigation into Google. The Competition Commission of India is reportedly looking into where Google abused its dominant position as the provider of Android mobile operating system to block rivals. The antitrust watchdog in the country started looking into the complaint last year and it is similar to the one faced by Google in Europe, where it was fined a record €4.34 billion (or $5 billion) in February.

Reuters reports that the Competition Commission of India decided that there is merit in the accusations made against Google in mid-April and has now ordered its investigation unit to launch a full probe and the order calling the full investigation has not been made public yet. The probe looking into alleged abuse of power by Google would be completed in about a year. “It is a strong case for the CCI, given the EU precedent,” a source familiar with the development told Reuters. “The CCI has (preliminarily) found Google abused its dominant position.”

As part of this probe, Google executives would likely be summoned to appear before the CCI in the coming months. The probe looking into Alphabet Inc’s Google comes just weeks after Rajan Anandan, Google VP of South East Asia and India quit the company to join Sequoia. In a statement, Google spokesman told Reuters that it is looking forward to working with the CCI “to demonstrate how Android has led to more competition and innovation, not less.”

The complaint is said to be filed on the exact same lines as the case filed against Google in Europe. The European Union Competition Commission found that Google forced manufacturers to pre-install Google Search and its Chrome browser along with its Play Store on Android, giving the company an unfair advantage against rival platforms. While Google announced that it will appeal the order, it has since taken steps to silence its critics in the European Union.

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The search giant recently announced that it will allow Android users in Europe to choose rival browsers and search engines. Once a user downloads a rival search app, Google also prompts them to change their default search engine in Chrome browser. In comparison to Europe, Android has more dominant position in India where more than 90 percent of the smartphones sold to end consumers run Google’s mobile operating system. Counterpoint Research estimates that nearly 99 percent of the smartphones sold this year run Android.

It is not clear what fine CCI could impose on Google if it was found to be abusing its market position but there is also a possibility of it being clear of any wrongdoing. The CCI has powers to impose a penalty of up to 10 percent of the turnover of the company in the last three financial years. This is not the first time that CCI is probing Google. The antitrust watchdog imposed a fine of Rs 1.36 billion on Google last year for “search bias” and abuse of dominant position. The probe also found Google promoting its own flight search in a prominent position on the search results page.

  • Published Date: May 13, 2019 9:44 AM IST