Months after scoring a small victory at a tribunal court, tech giant Google has made a plea to India’s Supreme Court to dismiss the antitrust directives imposed on the company for its alleged abuse of the Android market. Google is fighting such similar market abuse battles globally, with several countries and their respective competition watchdogs repeatedly filing cases against the dominant search and advertising giant, over abuse of this long-standing, unquestioned dominance.
Google of course, has argued that it has not abused its market position and should not be been liable to pay the fine that was imposed upon it.
In India, where Google’s Android powers nearly 97% of the 600Mn+ smartphones, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) initiated an investigation into the company’s alleged anti-competitive practices related to the Android market.
The investigation yielded startling results, wherein it was discovered that the company had indeed exploited its position in several sectors in the market. In response, the antitrust body imposed a financial penalty of $163 million upon Google, and ordered it to remove the restrictions that were imposed on device makers.
It turned out that Google’s agreements with OEMs required them to mandatorily pre-install the entire Google Mobile Suite (GMS), including a wide range of key Google apps such as Google Maps, Gmail, YouTube, and others, with no option to un-install them. This, and other anti-competitive practices by Google in the Indian Android market, ensured that its competitors never stood a chance to compete effectively with Google, which even went on to result in foreclosing the market for them as well as eliminating choice for users. This led to reduced competition and a lesser range of choices on the part of consumers.
Later, in the last days of March, Google scored a partial victory after tribunal court set aside four (out of 10 directives) in the same case. These included the need to permit hosting of third-party app stores within Play Store and restricting uninstallation of pre-installed apps by users. Nonetheless, the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal upheld the multi-million-dollar fine that was imposed upon the tech titan, which responded that it was “reviewing the order and evaluating our legal options.” Apparently, it is done evaluating.
Now, the ball lies in the SC’s court. Should the Supreme Court sides with Google and dismisses the directives, it could set a precedent that will certainly impact future antitrust cases and regulatory actions against dominant tech companies. Furthermore, it would validate Google’s argument that its practices in the Android market do not harm competition and instead foster innovation. On the other hand, if the directives are upheld, it could signal increased scrutiny and potential consequences for Google’s market practices in India.