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India’s competition regulator, the Competition Commission of India, today issued a fine of $161.9 million to Google LLC over its business practices in the Android ecosystem.

The regulator also ordered the search giant to change some of its business practices.

Android is the most popular mobile operating system in India, with an estimated market share of 95%. Two years ago, Google further expanded its market presence by acquiring a $4.5 billion stake in Jio Platforms Ltd., India’s largest mobile network operator. More recently, the giant announced plans to invest up to $1 billion in Jio Platforms rival Bharti Airtel Ltd.

The Competition Commission of India first began investigating Google over its Android business practices in 2019. As part of the investigation, the regulator found several of the search giant’s business practices to be anticompetitive. 

Officials determined that Google leveraged the popularity of its Play Store app marketplace to protect the market positions of Chrome, YouTube and Google Search. Additionally, the company was found to have taken steps that resulted in “denial of market access” for competing search apps.

Another factor behind the $161.9 million fine issued to Google was a set of contractual terms the search giant imposed on Android handset makers.

Google distributes Android under an open-source license. As a result, a handset maker can in theory create a customized version of the operating system and install the software on its devices. According to the Competition Commission of India, Google allowed handset makers to preinstall its apps on their devices only after they signed agreements that limited their ability to use customized versions of Android.

In addition to the $161.9 million fine, the regulator ordered the search giant to change some of its business practices.

Google must discontinue a number of revenue sharing agreements that it has signed with handset makers. The agreements were found to have limited the ability of rival search providers to compete with the company. Additionally, the Competition Commission of India ordered Google to let users uninstall its preinstalled apps and change the default search engine on their Android devices. 

“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,” the regulator said in a statement.

The European Commission, the European Union’s executive branch, has also issued a multibillion-dollar fine to Google over a number of business practices related to Android. The EU’s second-highest court largely upheld the fine in September following an appeal from Google. However, the court ruled that the penalty should be reduced by about $213 million. 

Photo: Google

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