Mar 29, 2023
Google’s $160 Million Antitrust Fine Upheld by India Court
(Bloomberg) -- An India appeals court upheld a fine of about $160 million slapped on Alphabet Inc.’s Google by the country’s antitrust regulator, amid growing scrutiny over the company’s ambition to expand the global reach of its Android mobile operating system.
Yet in a relief for Google, the court allowed some concessions to corrective measures the antitrust regulator had sought. The company can prevent users from un-installing its apps that are pre-loaded on new Android devices. Google will also be free to block third-party app stores from its Play Store and can keep restricting the distribution of third-party apps through other channels, also known as sideloading.
The concessions help Google prevent a complete shakeup of how it operates its Android business in India. The company is trying to maintain its growth in one of the world’s biggest web services markets where it competes for ad revenue with rivals including Meta Platforms Inc.
Google has previously said the measures sought by the antitrust regulator would cripple efforts to get more people online, hinder user privacy and make Android, which accounts for more than 90% of India’s smartphone market, less affordable.
The antitrust watchdog, meanwhile, has argued Google wields too much power over the mobile market and has asserted that the company has adopted a different approach in other jurisdictions.
Google had appealed to the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal after the Competition Commission of India last October fined it for abusing its dominant position in the Android device ecosystem. Days later, the CCI imposed another fine of 9.4 billion rupees ($114 million) on Google for restricting app developers from using third-party billing and payment-processing services. In both cases, the regulator ordered Google to take corrective measures, which the company began to do this year.
The company now has 30 days to pay the fine. On Wednesday, Google said it was reviewing the order and weighing legal options. The Mountain View, California-based company can appeal the tribunal’s verdict before the Supreme Court of India.
Google’s appeal in a second India case — related to the alleged abuse of its dominant position on its payment platform — is scheduled to be heard by the appeals forum in April.
Google’s run-ins with Indian authorities adds to the string of antitrust litigations the company is facing across various jurisdictions. A European court in September upheld a 4.1 billion-euro ($4.4 billion) antitrust fine in a case over Android. This setback for Google followed the company’s lost fight to topple a French penalty of 150 million euros ($163 million) in a case relating to online advertising. Meanwhile, Russia’s antitrust agency last year found that Google’s YouTube violated anti-monopoly legislation.
(Updates to add company comment in seventh paragraph)
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