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Google loses bid to block Indian Android antitrust ruling in major setback

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  • India’s Supreme Court refuses to block Android antitrust ruling
  • Google may need to overhaul Android’s business model in India
  • Court extends Indian order implementation date by one week
  • Google says India order could stall Android growth

NEW DELHI, Jan 19 (Reuters) – Google Inc lost its fight in India’s Supreme Court on Thursday to block an antitrust order, in a major setback that will force the U.S. tech giant to change its business model. popular Android operating system at a key time in the growing market.

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) ruled in October that Google, which is owned by Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O), exploited its dominant position in Android and said to remove restrictions placed on device manufacturers, including related to pre -installation of applications. It also fined Google $161 million.

Google challenged the order in the Supreme Court, saying it would harm consumers and their businesses. He warned that the growth of the Android ecosystem could stagnate and would be forced to amend agreements with more than 1,100 device makers and thousands of app developers. Google also said that “no other jurisdiction has ever asked for such sweeping changes.”

A three-judge caucus on the Supreme Court, which included India’s chief justice, delayed implementation of the ICC guidelines by a week on Jan. 19, but refused to block them.

“We are not inclined to interfere,” said Judge DY Chandrachud.

During the hearing, Chandrachud told Google, “Look at the kind of authority you wield in terms of dominance.”

About 97% of the 600 million smartphones in India run on Android, according to estimates by Counterpoint Research. Apple (AAPL.O) has just 3% share.

India’s high court has asked a lower court, which is already hearing the matter, to rule on Google’s challenge by March 31.

Google did not respond to a request for comment.

Google licenses its Android system to smartphone makers, but critics say it imposes restrictions such as mandatory pre-installation of its own apps that are anti-competitive. The company argues that such deals help keep Android free.

Faisal Kawoosa, founder of Indian research firm Techarc, said the Supreme Court ruling meant Google may have to consider other business models in India, such as charging startups a startup fee to provide access to the Android platform and its Play Store. .

“At the end of the day, Google is for-profit and needs to look at measures that make it sustainable and drive the growth of its innovations,” he said.

Android has been the subject of numerous investigations by regulators around the world. South Korea fined Google for blocking custom versions of it to restrict competition, while the US Department of Justice accused Google of enforcing anti-competitive distribution deals for Android.

In India, the CCI ordered Google that the licensing of its Play Store “is not tied to the pre-installation requirement” of Google’s search services, Chrome browser, YouTube or any other Google application.

He also ordered Google to allow Android phone users in India to uninstall its apps. Currently, apps like Google Maps and YouTube cannot be deleted from Android phones when they come pre-installed.

Google is concerned about India’s decision, as the measures are seen as more far-reaching than those imposed in the European Commission’s 2018 ruling, when Google was fined for implementing what the Commission called illegal restrictions on device makers. android mobile. Google has contested the record $4.3 billion fine in that case.

In Europe, Google has made changes, including allowing Android device users to choose their default search engine from a list of providers.

Google also argued in its legal filings, seen by Reuters, that the CCI’s investigative unit “copied and pasted extensively from a European Commission decision, deploying evidence from Europe that was not examined in India”.

N. Venkataraman, a government lawyer representing the CCI, told the high court: “We don’t cut, we copy and paste.”

Reporting by Aditya Kalra, Arpan Chaturvedi and Munsif Vengattil; Additional reporting by Diane Bartz and Supantha Mukherjee Editing by Jason Neely, Vin Shahrestani and Mark Potter

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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