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Australia looks to break Google’s dominance of search market with choice screens

The tech giant’s practice of bundling Google Search with Android OS has attracted antitrust scrutiny, including in India.

After coming down on Facebook, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has Google’s dominance in the country’s search engine market in its sights. According to Bloomberg, the competition watchdog has released a report that says it would want the tech giant to introduce a choice screen on new and existing Android smartphones in the country.

The ACCC report also said that it would like to extend this to non-Android smartphones as well as desktop devices, and suggested limiting the ability of such search engines to pay for default positions on browsers or original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). However, the report noted that these suggestions will be made open for industry feedback before implementation.

In 2018, the European Commission had fined Google for violating anti-trust laws in various areas. The tech giant has come under the scanner for ‘abusing its dominant position’ in India as well, where an investigation is still underway.

European Commission’s restrictions on Google search

The European Commission had levied a $5 billion fine on Google for:

  • Compulsorily bundling Search and Chrome with its Play Store and operating system.
  • Blocking phone manufacturers from running forked versions of Android
  • Paying phone manufacturers (like Apple) and service providers to “exclusively pre-install the Search app on their devices.”

While Google has appealed the commission’s decision, it has introduced changes like the choice screen for browsers and search apps, as well as charging device manufacturers license fees to pre-install Google apps on devices.

The case against Google in India

In 2018, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) fined Google Rs 135.86 crore for “search bias” and abusing its dominant position in the market. The allegations largely revolved around the design of the Google search engine result page. It was also alleged 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.

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In 2019, a 14-page report accessed by Reuters had revealed that the CCI had found that Google’s restrictions on manufacturers in finding and using alternate versions of Android seemed to amount to the imposition of “unfair conditions” under India’s competition law.

In 2021, the Times of India reported that, further into its investigation, the CCI noted that the pre-installation requirement it includes in its MADA (Mobile Application Distribution Agreement) for Android devices gives it a competitive edge and acts as an entry barrier for competitors.

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I cover health technology for MediaNama, among other things. Reach me at anushka@medianama.com

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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