Google Gets Relief in Android Antitrust Case in India, Tribunal Sets Aside CCI Order on Third-Party App Stores

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An Indian tribunal on Wednesday gave partial relief to Alphabet Inc’s Google by setting aside four of 10 antitrust directives in a case related to the dominant market position of its Android operating system.

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) said in October that Google had exploited its dominant position in Android and told it to remove restrictions imposed on device makers, including related to the pre-installation of apps. It also fined Google $161 million (roughly Rs. 1,325 crore).

An Indian appeals tribunal on Wednesday said CCI’s findings of Google’s anti-competitive conduct were correct and the company was also liable to pay the fine, but it quashed four of the 10 antitrust remedies that had been imposed on Google to change its business model.

Among the reliefs, Google will now not need to allow hosting of third-party app stores inside Play Store, as had been previously ordered by the CCI.

The move will come as some relief for Google after India’s Supreme Court in January refused to suspend any of the antitrust remedies ordered last year. The top court had asked the tribunal to hear the case on merit and rule by March end.

Following the Supreme Court order Google made sweeping changes to Android in India, including allowing device makers to license individual apps for pre-installation and giving users the option to choose their default search engine – changes the Indian tribunal did not interfere with on Wednesday.

Among other reliefs, Google will not need to allow users to remove pre-installed apps such as Google Maps, Gmail and YouTube. The company can also continue imposing curbs on so-called “sideloading”, a practice of downloading apps without using an app store, which CCI had said must be discontinued.

It was not immediately clear if Google will again challenge the decision to revoke the other CCI remedies. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Google has been concerned about India’s Android decision as the directives were seen as more sweeping than those imposed in the European Commission’s landmark 2018 ruling against the operating system.

It has said “no other jurisdiction has ever asked for such far-reaching changes”, and repeatedly argued that the growth of its Android ecosystem will stall in India due to the decision.

About 97 percent of 600 million smartphones in India run on Android, while in Europe, the system accounts for 75 percent of the 550 million smartphones, according to Counterpoint Research estimates.

© Thomson Reuters 2023


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