Google abuses its position, plays unfairly: CCI investigation
NEW DELHI: In a possibly damaging ruling against Google for abuse of dominance, the Indian Competition Commission (ICC) investigative service said the US search and tech giant was guilty of have adopted anti-competitive, unfair and restrictive business practices in the mobile operating system and related markets.
During the two-year investigation, ordered by the ICC in April 2019, the panel interviewed Google – the dominant and ubiquitous Android operating system (OS) leader with nearly 98% of the smartphone market – and multiple multinational and Indian companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Paytm, PhonePe, Mozilla, Samsung, Xiaomi, Vivo, Oppo and Karbonn.
The investigation found Google India guilty of stifling competition and innovation at the expense of the market as well as consumers in order to maintain its grip and dominance in search, music (via YouTube), browser (chrome), the application library (Play Store) and other key services. The investigation report, which is nearly 750 pages long, has been reviewed exclusively by TOI.
Investigation accuses Google of forcing and forcing unilateral contracts on devices as well as app makers to ensure its own products and apps retain primacy in consumer use, and come preinstalled and as options default to get the highest user preference.
“Google has violated the provisions of Article 4 (2) (a) (i), Article 4 (2) (b), Article 4 (2) (c), Article 4 (2) (d) and section 4 (2) (e) of the Competition Act â€, summarized the investigation report, finding the company guilty of various charges, including abuse dominant position, refusal of market access to competitors and limitation and restriction of technical or scientific development related to goods or services to the detriment of consumers.
The report has been submitted to the ICC for review and if found guilty, Google could face penalties or be asked to end practices that are perceived to distort competition and are anti-consumer based on market dominance.
Google has faced and faced antitrust investigations in various parts of the world – from the United States to the European Union, to Germany and Japan.
The Indian investigation focused on various issues after CCI first received a complaint alleging that Google India had hampered the development and market access of competing mobile applications or services by requiring manufacturers of smartphones and tablets through certain exclusive agreements that they preinstall its proprietary applications and / or benefits. Based on its own exclusive terms, the company offered its coveted Google Mobile Services (GMS) suite with popular products in bundle form, including Google Play Store, a search app, YouTube, and the Chrome browser.
A device maker wishing to go beyond the “bare Android version” and use one of the main Google applications is mandated by Google to sign a Mobile Application Distribution Agreement (MADA) and further an anti- Fragmentation (AFA) / Android Compatibility Commitment (ACC), which requires Google apps to be preloaded and a predetermined location for them on devices.
Additionally, device makers and other partners are offered lucrative revenue-sharing deals – including Apple’s best player for search engine option.
for its Safari browser – so that they give primacy to an ecosystem of applications and services only Google.
In the search engine category, which is the tech giant’s core business, the CCI survey found that Google had “ruled out the competition” in the Android operating system because through MADA, the search widget is placed on the default home screen of devices and Chrome browser. inserted into a Google applications folder. â€œCompeting general search services cannot outweigh the competitive advantage that Google secures through pre-installation and, therefore, acting as a barrier to entry for competitors,â€ noted the investigation.
With Google controlling almost all of the smart mobile market in India via Android, this further helps it dominate the search market as it has access to chunks of user data that make its results more accurate, according to the report.