Google loses bid to block India’s Android antitrust ruling in major setback

  • India’s top court refuses to block Android’s antitrust ruling
  • Google may need to revamp Android’s business model in India
  • Court extends implementation date of Indian order by one week
  • Google said India’s order could stunt Android’s growth

NEW DELHI, Jan 20 (Reuters) – Google lost its fight in India’s Supreme Court on Thursday to block an antitrust order, in a major setback that will force the U.S. tech giant to change the business model of its popular operating system Android in no time. growing market.

The Competition Commission of India (ICC) ruled in October that Google, which is owned by Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O), was exploiting its dominant position in Android and asked it to remove restrictions on device makers, including those related to the pre-installation of applications. It also fined Google $161 million.

Google challenged the order in the Supreme Court, saying it would harm consumers and its business. He warned that growth in the Android ecosystem could stagnate and he would be forced to change deals with more than 1,100 device makers and thousands of app developers. Google also said “no other jurisdiction has ever requested such sweeping changes.”

A three-judge bench in the Supreme Court, which included India’s Chief Justice, delayed the January hearing. 19 implementation of the week-long ICC guidelines, but refused to block them.

“We are not inclined to interfere,” Chief Justice DY Chandrachud said.

During the hearing, Chandrachud told Google, “Look at the kind of authority you wield in terms of dominance.”

Around 97% of India’s 600 million smartphones run Android, according to Counterpoint Research estimates. Apple (AAPL.O) only has a 3% share.

India’s top court has asked a lower court, which is already hearing the case, to rule on Google’s challenge by March 31.

Google did not respond to a request for comment.

Google licenses its Android system to smartphone makers, but critics say it imposes restrictions such as mandatory pre-installation of its own apps that are anti-competitive. The company says such deals help keep Android free.

Faisal Kawoosa, founder of Indian research firm Techarc, said the Supreme Court’s ruling means Google may have to consider other business models in India, such as charging startups an upfront fee to provide access to the platform. form Android and its Play Store.

“Ultimately, Google is for profit and needs to consider actions that make it sustainable and fuel the growth of its innovations,” he said.

Android has been the subject of various investigations by regulators around the world. South Korea fined Google for blocking customized versions of it to restrict competition, while the US Department of Justice accused Google of running anti-competitive distribution deals for Android .

In India, the ICC ordered Google that its Play Store license “shall not be tied to the requirement to pre-install” Google search services, Chrome browser, YouTube or any other Google apps.

He also ordered Google to allow its apps to be uninstalled by Android phone users in India. Currently apps like Google Maps and YouTube cannot be removed from Android phones when they are pre-installed.

Google has expressed concern over India’s decision as the measures are seen as more drastic than those imposed in the European Commission’s 2018 decision, when Google was fined for putting in place what the Commission called illegal restrictions on manufacturers of Android mobile devices. Google challenged the record $4.3 billion fine in the case.

In Europe, Google has made changes, including allowing Android device users to choose their default search engine from a list of providers.

Google also argued in its legal documents, seen by Reuters, that the ICC’s investigative unit “extensively copied a European Commission decision, deploying European evidence that was not reviewed in India. “.

N. Venkataraman, a government attorney representing the ICC, told the Supreme Court, “We didn’t cut, copy and paste.”

Reporting by Aditya Kalra, Arpan Chaturvedi and Munsif Vengattil; Additional reporting by Diane Bartz and Supantha Mukherjee Editing by Jason Neely, Vin Shahrestani and Mark Potter

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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