Google to team up with India Antitrust Watchdog after Android ruling

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The ruling could lead to mobile phones becoming more expensive in India. (representative)

Google said on Friday it will cooperate with India’s competition authority after the Supreme Court upheld strict antitrust guidelines forcing the US company to change the way it markets its popular Android platform in a key growth market.

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) ruled in October that Google, owned by Alphabet Inc, was exploiting its dominant position in Android and said it should lift restrictions on device manufacturers, including those related to pre-installing apps and ensuring exclusivity of its search function . It also fined Google $161 million.

Google is concerned about India’s decision, as the steps are considered more drastic than those mandated in the landmark 2018 European Commission ruling against Android. About 97% of India’s 600 million smartphones run Android, while in Europe the system accounts for 75% of 550 million smartphones, according to estimates by Counterpoint Research.

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On Thursday, Google lost a challenge in the Supreme Court to block the CCI guidelines and was given seven days to comply, a move that will force the company to make changes to the way it contracts with device makers that offer it for free, using open-source Android platform. .

“We remain committed to our users and partners and will work with the CCI moving forward,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement to Reuters, without explaining steps it could take.

“We are reviewing the details of yesterday’s decision, which is limited to provisional measures and has not reached a decision on the merits of our appeal,” it added.

India’s top court also said a lower tribunal – where Google is challenging the Android guidelines for the first time – can continue to hear the company’s appeal and must decide by March 31. Google said on Friday it will continue the appeal “in parallel.”

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Hoping to block implementation of the CCI guidelines, Google had approached the Supreme Court by warning that the growth of its Android ecosystem will stop. It said it would be forced to change agreements with more than 1,100 device manufacturers and thousands of app developers if the guidelines go into effect.

Google’s filing also stated that “no other jurisdiction has ever asked for such sweeping changes.”

The Indian guidelines “will prioritize how much Google is forced to open up the Android platform to local app stores, third-party apps and services,” said Neil Shah, research director at Counterpoint Research.

“It will be a challenge,” he said. “We’re talking about nearly 600 million Android users here – it’s going to be a big shock, and it’s going to cause confusion and chaos.”

In Europe, Google was fined for introducing what the Commission called illegal restrictions on makers of Android mobile devices. Google is still fighting the record $4.3 billion fine in that case.

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There, Google made changes including letting Android device users choose their default search engine and said device manufacturers will be able to license Google’s mobile application suite separately from the Google Search app or Chrome browser.

Google told the Supreme Court that if smartphone makers choose for themselves which apps to preload, as the CCI has ordered, it would “prevent Google from securing the pre-installation of its revenue-generating apps and consequently (will) force Google to charge a license fee. to take .”

This, the company warned, could lead to mobile handsets becoming more expensive as input costs rise for manufacturers.

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