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Google guilty of abusing position; playing unfair, finds CCI probe

Google guilty of abusing position; playing unfair, finds CCI probe

The CCI probe has accused Google of enforcing one-sided contracts on devices and app makers so that its own apps and products maintain primacy in consumer usage and come pre-installed on devices

In April 2019, the CCI had ordered a probe into the American search engine giant who with its Android OS controls over 98% of the Indian smartphone market In April 2019, the CCI had ordered a probe into the American search engine giant who with its Android OS controls over 98% of the Indian smartphone market

The investigation arm of the Competition Commission of India (CCI) has found Google guilty of using anti-competitive, unfair and restrictive trade practices in the mobile operating system and related markets.

In April 2019, the CCI had ordered a probe into the American search engine giant who with its Android OS controls over 98% of the Indian smartphone market. During the two-year long investigation, the panel questioned Google and other firms such as Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Paytm, PhonePe, Mozilla, Samsung, Xiaomi, Vivo, Oppo and Karbonn.

The probe revealed that Google India was guilty of stifling competition and innovation in order to maintain its grip and dominance in search, music (through YouTube), browser (Chrome), app library (Play Store) and other key services, according to the investigation report, TOI reported.

The panel has accused Google of enforcing one-sided contracts on devices and app makers so that its own apps and products maintain primacy in consumer usage and come pre-installed on devices.

"Google is found to be contravening the provisions of Section 4(2)(a)(i); Section 4(2)(b); Section 4(2)(c); Section 4(2)(d) and Section 4(2)(e) of the Competition Act," the probe report summarised.

It held Google guilty of multiple charges such as abuse of dominance in the market, restricting technical or scientific development relating to goods or services to the prejudice of consumers and denial of market access to competitors.

The 750-page report has been submitted to the CCI for consideration. If Google is held accountable, the firm may have to pay penalties. It could even be asked to discontinue practices that intend to undermine competition and are anti-consumer basis market dominance.

The probe looked into multiple issues after CCI received complaints that Google India had restricted market access of rival mobile apps and services by requiring manufacturers of devices to sign certain exclusive deals to pre-install Google's proprietary apps or services.

As per its own exclusive terms, the tech major offered its Google Mobile Services (GMS) suite which has apps such as Google Playstore, YouTube and Chrome bundled together. Device makers seeking to upgrade from the "bare Android version" are required to sign a Mobile Application Distribution Agreement (MADA) and further an Anti-Fragmentation Agreement (AFA)/Android Compatibility Commitment (ACC). This requires pre-installation of Google apps and placement of these on the devices.

The report also mentioned that device manufacturers and other partners are offered attractive revenue-sharing agreements for giving primacy to a Google-only ecosystem of services and applications.

Regarding the search engine category, the probe says, "Competing general search services cannot offset the competitive advantage that Google ensures for itself through pre-installation and thus, acting as an entry barrier for competitors".

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