Richard Ginika Izuora
An Indian tribunal has upheld a $162 million fine imposed on Google by the country’s fair trade regulator for abusing its Android dominance to promote its payment service.
The National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) on March 29 rejected Google’s plea that the Competition Commission of India’s (CCI) probe into a 2018 complain from Android users had violated natural justice.
In October 2022, CCI fined the US company, ordering a halt on its various unfair business practices.
Googled appealed against the fine with NCLAT in January this year.
It defended itself saying “we believe it (the CCI decision) presents a major setback for our Indian users and businesses who trust Android’s security features, and potentially raising the cost of mobile devices.”
NCLAT has, however, upheld CCI’s decision now and directed Google to deposit the penalty amount in 30 days. The tech behemoth can still appeal against the ruling to the Supreme Court of India.
The penalty was a result of a long-drawn investigation by CCI. The probe concluded that Indian Android developers find it difficult to place their apps on smartphones.
Google licenses its Android operating system to smartphone producers at a relatively low cost. In India, all major smartphone companies, including Samsung or Xiaomi, use Android. Around 95 per cent of the 750 million smartphones used in the country are based on this operating system.
Prominent apps, therefore, come pre-installed with Android devices and these can’t be uninstalled. Some app developers claimed that Google’s policies had driven them out of business.
CCI found, therefore, that the US giant’s practice undermines fair competition and stifles innovation.