Google fined $162 mln by India antitrust watchdog for abuse of Android platform

A man walks past the sign of "Google for India", the company's annual technology event in New Delhi
A man walks past the sign of "Google for India", the company's annual technology event in New Delhi, India, September 19, 2019. REUTERS/Sankalp Phartiyal/File Photo

NEW DELHI, Oct 20 (Reuters) - India's competition regulator on Thursday ordered Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O) Google to change its approach to its Android platform and fined the U.S. tech company 13.38 billion Indian rupees ($161.95 million) for anticompetitive practices.

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) said Google leveraged its dominant position in markets such as online search and app store for Android, to protect the position of its apps like Chrome and YouTube in mobile Web browsers and online video hosting.

CCI also restricted Google from certain revenue sharing agreements with smartphone makers, noting that such practices helped Google to secure exclusivity for its search services "to the total exclusion of competitors."

Google declined to comment on the order.

"Markets should be allowed to compete on merits and the onus is on the dominant players (in the present case, Google) that its conduct does not impinge this competition on merits," CCI said in a statement.

The U.S. company is facing a series of antitrust cases and the tightening of existing tech-sector regulations in India.

The competition watchdog is separately looking in to Google's business conduct in the smart TV market and its in-app payments system.

The Android-related probe, started in 2019, was sparked by a complaint from two junior Indian antitrust research associates and a law school student. The Indian case is similar to one faced by Google in Europe, where regulators imposed a $5 billion fine on the company for forcing manufacturers to pre-install its apps on Android devices.

Google was ordered by India on Thursday not to restrict smartphone users from uninstalling its pre-installed apps like Google Maps and Gmail.

CCI also asked Google to allow users to pick their search engine of choice for all relevant services while setting up a phone for the first time.

Google's Android operating system powers 97% of India's 600 million smartphones, according to Counterpoint Research.

($1 = 82.6180 Indian rupees)

Reporting by Munsif Vengattil and Aditya Kalra in New Delhi Additional Reporting by Nallur Sethuraman in Bengaluru Editing by Devika Syamnath, Peter Graff and Matthew Lewis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Thomson Reuters

Munsif Vengattil is a Reuters' India technology correspondent, based in New Delhi. He tracks how policymaking is influencing the business of tech in India, and how the country is now vying more aggressively to be a powerhouse in the global electronics supply chain. He also regularly reports on big tech giants, including Facebook and Google, and their strategies and challenges in the key Indian market.