Google’s request to delay an antitrust ruling that would require changes to the distribution of its Android platform in India has been denied by the country’s Supreme Court, causing a major setback for the company in a vital growing market.
Google fined by CCI for Android anti-competitive activities
In October 2022, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) imposed a fine of $161 million on Google, a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc, for abusing its dominant position in the Indian market through the Android operating system, which powers 97% of smartphones in India. The CCI also ordered Google to remove restrictions it had placed on smartphone manufacturers regarding the pre-installation of apps.
Google’s request to block antitrust order is declined by the Supreme Court
As reported, Google argued that the directive of the CCI would harm consumers and its business, and warned that it could also affect the growth of the Android ecosystem.
The Supreme Court’s three-judge bench, which included India’s chief justice, did grant a one-week delay on the implementation date of the CCI’s directives, set for January 19th, but despite Google’s repeated requests, the court did not block the ruling. Chief Justice D.Y Chandrachud said, “We are not inclined to interfere,” with the CCI’s decision.
Google’s Android system, which is licensed to smartphone manufacturers, is facing criticism for its supposed anticompetitive restrictions, such as mandatory pre-installation of Google’s own apps. The company defends these agreements as a way to keep Android free. The recent Supreme Court ruling in India has complicated Google’s business practices in the country, as it may be forced to change its agreements with smartphone manufacturers.
The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has ordered Google to not link the licensing of its Play Store with the requirement of pre-installing Google search services, Chrome, YouTube, or other apps. Additionally, it has ordered Google to allow for the uninstalling of its apps by Android phone users in India. Currently, apps such as Google Maps and YouTube cannot be deleted from Android phones when they come pre-installed.
During the hearing, Google was told by a judge to “look at the kind of authority which you wield in terms of dominance.” The ruling in India is seen as more severe than the European Commission’s 2018 decision, in which Google was found to have imposed unlawful restrictions on Android mobile device makers and was fined $4.3 billion. Google is currently challenging this fine. In its India filings, Google has stated that “no other jurisdiction has ever asked for such far-reaching changes.”
Google had argued in its legal filings that the Competition Commission of India’s (CCI) investigation unit “copy-pasted extensively from a European Commission decision, deploying evidence from Europe that was not examined in India.” N. Venkataraman, a government lawyer representing the CCI, denied this claim and stated that “we have not cut, copy and paste.”
However, the Indian Supreme Court has asked a lower tribunal, which is already hearing the matter, to decide on Google’s challenge by March 31st.