Google abused dominant position of Android OS in India: CCI report

Competition Commission of India’s (CCI) investigations unit found that Google has abused the dominant position of its Android operating system in India, using its financial muscle to illegally hurt competitors, Reuters reported.
Google developersGoogle has reduced the ability and incentive of device manufacturers to develop and sell devices operating on alternative versions of Android, says the June 2021 report by the Competition Commission of India’s (CCI) investigations unit.

The U.S. tech giant told Reuters in a statement it looks forward to working with the CCI to demonstrate how Android has led to more competition and innovation, not less.

Google has not received the investigation report, Reuters reported.

CCI did not respond to a request for comment on the report. Senior CCI members will review the report and give Google another chance to defend itself, before issuing a final order, which could include penalties.

Google would be able to appeal any order in India’s courts.

Google already faces several probes in the payments app and smart television markets. Google has been investigated in Europe, the United States and elsewhere. South Korea’s antitrust regulator fined Google $180 million for blocking customised versions of Android.

Google submitted at least 24 responses during the probe, defending itself and arguing it was not hurting competition, the India report says.

Microsoft, Amazon.com, Apple, as well as smartphone makers like Samsung and Xiaomi, were among 62 entities that responded to CCI questions during its Google investigation.

Google Android OS powers 98 percent of India’s 520 million smartphones, according to Counterpoint Research.

When the CCI ordered the probe in 2019, it said Google appeared to have leveraged its dominance to reduce device makers’ ability to opt for alternate versions of its mobile operating system and force them to pre-install Google apps.

The 750-page report finds the mandatory pre-installation of apps amounts to imposition of unfair condition on the device manufacturers in violation of India’s competition law, while the company leveraged the position of its Play Store app store to protect its dominance.

Play Store policies were one-sided, ambiguous, vague, biased and arbitrary, while Android has been enjoying its dominant position in licensable operating systems for smartphones and tablets since 2011, the report says.

India is a key growth market for Google. Google aims to spend $10 billion in the country over five to seven years.