The Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) said on Tuesday it fined Google $177 million for abusing its market dominance in the Android operating system (OS) market.
The U.S. tech company has restricted market competition by prohibiting local smartphone makers like Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics from customizing their Android OS, through Google’s anti-fragmentation agreements (AFA), according to the antitrust regulator statement.
Under the AFA, smartphone developers are not allowed to install or develop “Android forks”, modified versions of Android.
The KFTC banned Google LLC, Google Asia Pacific and Google Korea from imposing local smartphone developers to sign the AFA and ordered to make changes on details about the existing version. The new measure in South Korea will be applied to not only mobiles devices but also other Android-powered smart devices including watches and TVs.
Android’s compatibility program has spurred innovation among Korean mobile operator owners and software developers and that has led to a better user experience for Korean consumers, Google said in its statement. “The KFTC’s decision released today ignores these benefits, and will undermine the advantages enjoyed by consumers. Google intends to appeal the KFTC’s decision,” a spokesperson at Google said.
The commission has been investigating Google over the anti-competition practice in the OS market since July 2016, a spokesperson at KFTC said.
Google’s global mobile OS market share, excluding China, has been increased to 97.7% in 2019 from 38% in 2010, as per KFTC’s announcement.
Google’s AFA has also limited to launch tech companies’ new devices like smart watches and TVs using the operating system (OS), including Samsung’s smart watch in 2013, LG Electronics’ LTE smart speaker in 2018 and Amazon’s smart TV in 2018.
South Korea’s watchdog is probing into three other cases, including the Play Store app market, billing system and the advertisement market.
Meanwhile, South Korea’s “anti-Google law” takes effect on 14 September, based on Korea Communications Commission’s press release.
In late August, South Korea passed a bill to curb global tech companies including Google and Apple from imposing their own proprietary in-app payment service and commissions on app developers.