Indian antitrust investigation finds Google abused its Android dominance
India is one of the most important markets for Google with Android phones enjoying over 95% of the market share in the country. It’s not just about the OS though. All Android phones come with Google’s suite of apps pre-installed which means there are millions of users using Google’s services by default. Be it Chrome for browsing, Gmail for emails, or the Play Store for installing apps. As a result of this domination, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) had launched an investigation back in 2019 to determine Google’s role in blocking competitors. Two years later, we now have the findings of the investigation.
According to the investigation report reviewed by The Times of India, CCI said that Google is guilty of adopting anti-competitive, unfair, and restrictive trade practices with regards to its smartphone operating system and the other components related to it. The investigation found that Google was guilty of suppressing competition in the Indian market by pushing its own services and apps to capture a large user base.
Through its popular services like Search, YouTube, Chrome, Play Store, etc., Google wanted to get a stronghold over what people do on the internet in the country. By forcing OEMs to pre-install these apps on every Android smartphone, Google wanted to make sure that users who buy a new smartphone would use only their apps and services by default, hence creating an environment that was anti-competitive and unfair to third parties. The investigation also claims that Google enforced one-sided contracts on both device makers as well as app makers which denied market access to competitors.
Google’s GMS core is an essential part of every Android device and this package includes a few of Google’s own apps that come pre-installed when you buy a new Android phone. Google makes it mandatory for OEMs to include this on every Android device. Of late, Google has even provided incentives to smartphone manufacturers for including the Google Dialer app and Messages app as the default apps instead of the custom apps we found earlier on a lot of phones with custom UIs. The report also suggests how Google puts a search bar on the home screen by default as a widget, encouraging more people to use their search engine.
Note that these are just the findings of the report which has been placed before the CCI for consideration. The opposition party, which in this case is Google, will be given an opportunity to present their side of the story and defend their practices before a judgment is made. If found guilty, Google will either have to pay a fine or stop these unfair practices, or both.