The investigation arm of the Competition Commission of India (CCI) has reportedly found Google India guilty of adopting anti-competitive, unfair and restrictive trade practices in the mobile operating system and related markets.
In the investigation, reviewed by TOI, the probe found Google India guilty of stifling competition and innovation that affects the market as well as consumers through dominating the internet search, music (YouTube), browser (chrome), app library (Play Store) and other key services.
Accused of imposing and forcing one-sided contracts, on devices as well as app-makers, the CCI probe has charged Google India guilty of a variety of charges, including:
- Abuse of dominance
- Denial of market access to search apps competitors
- Leveraging its dominant position in Play Store policies
- Limiting and restricting technical or scientific development relating to goods or services to the prejudice of consumers
The investigation report has been placed with CCI, and upon finding guilty, Google India will face severe penalties and be asked to discontinue anti-competitive practices.
It is noteworthy that while Google is facing antitrust probes in many countries — the US, the European Union (EU), Japan, Germany — across the globe, South Korea became the first nation to pass a bill to rein in the dominance that Google and Apple exert over the payments on their app stores. Further, South Korea also slapped a fine of $177 Mn on Google for abusing its market dominance.
Google has also been previously fined £3.8 Bn by the EU over Android antitrust violations.
“Abuse by dominant players puts other players in the internet economy at a disadvantage. The internet and app economy is made up of scores of small players, and it is crucial that their interests are protected,” Sijo Kuruvilla George, executive director, Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF) told Inc42.
Welcoming the development and lauding the leadership of the CCI, he added, “This will count as one of the first major steps by Indian regulators to reign in the might of Google. Together, we must continue our efforts towards blocking the tech giant from indulging in abusive practices.”
Antitrust Cases Against Google India
The Indian Watchdog CCI has ordered numerous probes into Google’s abuse of dominance in India in various segments.
- In 2015, after CCI raised queries, 30 companies including Flipkart, Facebook, Nokia’s maps division, MakeMyTrip formally raised charges against Google for misusing its leadership position to push proprietary products and sponsored links on its search platform — rigging search results.
- In 2019, CCI started probing Google for allegedly misusing its dominant position to reduce the ability of smartphone makers to opt for alternate versions of its Android system.
- In 2020, the Competition Commission of India opened another antitrust case against Google over its digital payments app Google Pay alleging that Google unfairly promotes its own payments app through “prominent placement” on the Play Store.
- In 2021, the antitrust watchdog ordered an investigation into allegations that Google has abused the dominant position of Android in the country’s smart TV market
While the CCI has not yet ordered a probe into a 30% commission-cut by Google for app downloads over the Play Store, the antitrust watchdog in its investigation against Google Pay (payments app) dominance, has specified that such ‘allegedly high fee’ would increase the cost of Google’s competitors, thus killing competition.
With the “questionable policy” coming into effect from January 2022, the Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF), representing over 350 digital startups including Paytm, Innov8, MakeMytrip among others, says that it is critical that the Indian government also enacts tough laws to safeguard the interests of Indian startups and developers.