Google fined $161.9 million in India over ‘anti-competitive’ Android policies

Google faces another fine for allegedly abusing its control of Android to stifle competition. CNET The Indian Competition Commission has reportedly fined Google the equivalent of $161.9 million for allegedly giving its Android apps an advantage with restrictive terms. According to official statements, the company imposes an “unfair condition” on phone manufacturers by requiring them to preinstall Google apps under agreements. This in turn should prevent companies from developing heavily modified Android variants that are less dependent on Google services.

The commission also alleges that Google is exercising its “dominant position” to squeeze out competitors in search, app stores, web browsers and video services. In the past, Google has required phones with the Play Store installed to also include apps like Chrome and YouTube, often with prominent placement on the home screen. While you can always install alternatives like Firefox and Vimeo, these are not included by default. Brands can use the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) if they want more flexibility, but lose access to the Play Store in the process.

The regulator has issued a cease and desist order preventing Google from requiring a “bouquet” of pre-installed apps. Companies must be given the choice of which apps they want. Google is also not allowed to deny access to the Play Services framework, include “anti-fragmentation” clauses that block Android forks, or offer incentives in exchange for exclusive search offers. Third-party app stores must be allowed to distribute through the Play Store. Users, meanwhile, need the ability to choose their search engine upon setup and uninstall Google apps they don’t want.

Google has declined to comment until receiving the official commission order. The investigation began in 2019 but only found in September 2021 that Google had abused its dominance.

The fine is tiny for Google, which made about $257.6 billion in global revenue last year. However, the order could force the company to make significant changes to its deals with Android makers, and comes after South Korea, the European Union and others called for similar changes. And Google can’t afford to ignore India — it’s the second-biggest smartphone market in the world, with around 606.6 million users. A forced exit would severely hurt Google’s bottom line, not to mention its clout in the mobile industry.

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