Nearly 90% of the users in the world’s second-largest market for smartphones – India – depend on Android, compared to the worldwide share of 75%. Clearly, India is a vital market for Google and efforts like “Google for India” as well as a recently set up R&D center for chipsets vouch for it. However, not everything seems to favor Google in India. According to a recent report, the tech giant might have to bear fines amounting to millions or even billions of Indian Rupees for monopolizing Android’s advantage and popularity over iOS in the country.
As per information from at least four sources, India’s antitrust regulator – Competition Commission of India (CCI) – is mulling Google’s role in blocking competitors with the help of Android, and the paraphernalia of apps like Google Search and Chrome. According to the report, the CCI has been building a case against the company based on last year’s judgment by the European Union’s antitrust commission.
Reuters was told by one of its sources that this “is on the lines of the EU case, but at a preliminary stage.” Another source said, “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).”
The “preliminary” investigation is a result of complaints filed by a group of individuals not cited in the report. Google representatives have, therefore, met with CCI officials at least once to talk about the matter. The CCI could initiate a more rigorous investigation in the near future or even drop the case if there’s insufficient evidence to back the allegations. However, the investigation could take months or even years said the report citing the watchdog’s track record.
In the landmark case in Europe last year, Google earned a fine of 4.34 billion euros or $5 billion for forcing and paying manufacturers to pre-install its apps on Android smartphones since 2010. These apps include Google Search, Chrome browser, Google Play Store, and other Play Services. In response, CEO Sundar Pichai said this upsets the “careful balance” struck by Android and warned that manufacturers may misuse the decision to install their proprietary software on the smartphones instead. Later in October 2018, the company said it would charge manufacturers for installing the Google Play Store and other apps in the bundle.
The CCI had earlier charged Google with a penalty of ₹1.36 billion ($21 million, at the time) for abusing its “dominant position” and monopolizing search results. While the future course of action is not clear in this case yet, the impending election season and the battle for power in the country might not be very lucky for Google.
Update 1: Full Probe Reportedly Launched
The reputable news agency Reuters is following up on their initial report about the CCI’s investigation into Google’s alleged monopolistic practices. The new report claims that CCI, India’s antitrust agency, has ordered a full investigation into Google for “allegedly abusing the dominant position of its popular Android mobile operating system to block rivals.” Reuters states that, sometime in mid-April, the CCI “decided there was merit in the accusations” made in the initial complaint and thus “ordered its investigation unit to launch a full probe.” The investigation will likely last a year and will involve Google executives appearing before the CCI.
When reached for comment, a Google spokesman told Reuters that they “looked forward to working with the CCI ‘to demonstrate how Android has led to more competition and innovation, not less’.” Reuters notes that the CCI has the authority to impose a penalty of “up to 10% of the relevant turnover of a company in the last three financial years” if said company is found to have violated Indian antitrust regulations. The legal proceedings will take a long time to finish, but we’ll update this story as we learn more.
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