Google narrowly loses bid to block India’s Android antitrust ruling

  • India’s top court has refused to block Android’s antitrust ruling
  • Google may need to review its Android business model in India
  • The court extended the execution period of the Indian order by one week
  • Google said the Indian order could halt Android development

NEW DELHI, Jan 20 (Reuters) – Google on Thursday lost its battle to block an antitrust ruling in India’s Supreme Court that would force the U.S. tech giant to overhaul the business model of its popular Android operating system. growth market.

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) ruled in October that Alphabet Inc’s ( GOOGL.O ) Google was abusing its dominant position in Android and ordered it to remove restrictions on device makers, including restrictions on pre-installation. did. programs. It also fined Google $161 million.

Google challenged the decision in the Supreme Court, saying it would harm consumers and its business. He warned that the growth of the Android ecosystem could stall and that he would have to change agreements with more than 1,100 device manufacturers and thousands of software developers. Google also said that “no jurisdiction has ever required such sweeping changes.”

A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, which also included the chief justice of India, delayed the implementation of the CCI’s directives on January 19 by a week, but refused to block them.

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

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

About 97% of India’s 600 million smartphones run Android, according to Counterpoint Research estimates. Apple ( AAPL.O ) has just a 3% stake.

India’s supreme court has already asked the lower tribunal hearing the matter by March 31 to rule on Google’s objection.

Google did not respond to a request for comment.

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

Faisal Kawoosa, founder of Indian research firm Techarc, said the Supreme Court’s decision means Google may have to consider other business models in India, such as requiring startups to pay upfront for access to its Indian platform and its Play Store.

“At the end of the day, Google is profitable and needs to look at measures that make it sustainable and fuel its innovation,” he said.

Android has come under various scrutiny from regulators around the world. South Korea has fined Google for blocking its customized versions to limit competition, while the US Justice Department has accused Google of enforcing anti-competitive distribution agreements for Android.

In India, the CCI ordered Google that its Play Store license should not be tied to the requirement of “pre-installation” of Google search services, Chrome browser, YouTube or any other Google apps.

It also ordered Google to allow its apps to be uninstalled by Android phone users in India. Currently, apps like Google Maps and YouTube cannot be uninstalled from Android phones if they are pre-installed.

Google is worried about India’s decision because the steps are considered more comprehensive than those applied in the European Commission’s decision in 2018, when Google was fined by the Commission for imposing illegal restrictions on Android mobile device manufacturers. Google has contested the record fine of $4.3 billion in this case.

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

Google also alleged in its legal documents seen by Reuters that the CCI’s investigation unit “largely copied and pasted from the European Commission’s decision and placed unexamined evidence from Europe in India”.

“We have not cut, copied and pasted,” government lawyer N. Venkataraman, representing the CCI, told the high court.

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

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