Google appeals India’s fine over ‘unfair’ business practices on Android

Google said on Friday it is appealing the Indian antitrust body’s ruling that accused the Android-maker of engaging in anti-competitive practices surrounding Android mobile devices and required that it make a series of major changes in the key overseas market.

The Competition Commission of India found Google requiring device manufacturers to pre-install its entire Google Mobile Suite and mandating prominent placement of those apps “imposition of unfair condition on the device manufacturers” and thus was in “contravention of the provisions of Section 4(2)(a)(i) of the Act,” it said in its ruling in October.

The watchdog, which began its investigation years ago, was probing whether Google had assumed dominant position in five different markets: licensable OS for smartphones, app store, web search services, non-OS specific mobile web browsers and online video hosting platform in India.

Google was dominant in all of those relevant markets, the regulator concluded in its October ruling. 

The antitrust watchdog said that device manufacturers should not be forced to install Google’s suite of apps and the search giant should not deny access to its Play Services APIs and monetary and other incentives to vendors.

Google said in a statement Friday that it has approached the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT), the nation’s appellate tribunal, to appeal the Competition Commission of India’s October order, in which the watchdog fined Google $162 million.

“We have decided to appeal the CCI’s decision on Android as we believe it presents a major setback for our Indian users and businesses who trust Android’s security features, and potentially raising the cost of mobile devices,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement.

“We look forward to making our case in NCLAT and remain committed to users and partners.”

In October, the CCI hit Google with another $113 million fine for allegedly abusing the dominant position of its Google Play Store and ordered the firm to allow app developers to use third-party payments processing services for in-app purchases or for purchasing apps.

India is a key overseas market for Google, which has amassed more than 500 million users in the South Asian market. The company, which has poured billions into its India business over the past decade, has pledged to invest another $10 billion in the country over the next couple of years.

Google is facing mounting scrutiny from governments across the globe as policymakers begin to worry about the reach of technology giants and assess whether that is in detriment to local companies. Google lost its appeal against a record $4.3 billion fine in EU for using the dominance of Android to thwart competition. It’s also subject to Germany’s new regulation that targets large companies.

Two years ago, more than 150 startups and firms in India began working to form an alliance and toyed with the idea of launching an app store to cut their reliance on Google. The pushback prompted Google to delaying the enforcement of its new Play Store billing rule in the country.