The Competition Commission of India, India’s anti-trust regulator, has ordered an investigation into Google for allegedly abusing the dominant position of its Android mobile OS to block rivals, per Reuters. The CCI last year started looking at the complaint, which is similar to one Google faced in Europe and paid a $5 billion penalty for. As of February, the CCI’s investigation was at a preliminary stage. In mid-April, it decided there was merit in the accusations, it found that Google “abused its dominant position” and ordered a full probe. According to Reuters’ source, the CCI’s case is strong given the EU precedent. It remains unknown as to who filed the complained, but it involves more than one person.
What was the EU anti-trust case? In the EU case, regulators said Google forced manufacturers to pre-install Google Search app and Chrome browser, together in the Google Play Store, on Android devices, giving it an unfair advantage. Additionally, Google also paid other phone manufacturers like Apple and service providers to to exclusively pre-install the Search app on their devices. Android features on 88% of the world’s smartphones and 99% o the smartphones sold in India.
Google has appealed the EU order, but to calm antitrust concerns, said its Android device users in Europe would be able to choose rival browsers and search engines. “This will involve asking users of existing and new Android devices in Europe which browser and search apps they would like to use.” Google’s initial response was to start charging manufacturers licensing fees for the Play Store and other apps while offering the option to include Chrome and the Google search app in the overall package for free.
What can happen in the India case? The CCI has powers to impose penalty of up to 10% of the relevant turnover of a company in the last three financial years. Google’s earnings linked to its web browser and search engine could be considered to assess the penalty, per Reuters.
CCI’s earlier penalty on Google
Back in February, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) imposed a fine of Rs.135.86 crore or nearly $21 million on Google for “search bias” and abusing its “dominant position” in the market in contravention with India’s anti-trust laws. The allegations largely revolved around the design of the Google search engine result page, along with alleging that the company was leveraging its dominance in web search to strengthen its position in online syndicate search services, as competitors were denied access to the market.