India fines Google $162 million for abusing market dominance

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Google has been fined more than $160 million by India’s anti-trust watchdog after a probe found the tech behemoth was abusing its commanding position in the local smartphone market.

The California-based company’s Android mobile operating system is by far the dominant player in India and is run on 95 percent of all the country’s smartphones, according to research agency Counterpoint.

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But the Competition Commission of India (CCI) said Google had configured the platform to unlawfully crowd out rivals to its popular apps, including YouTube and web browser Chrome.

Android had a suite of Google apps pre-installed on its phones, including the company’s own search engine, “which accorded significant competitive edge to Google’s search services over its competitors,” a CCI statement said late Thursday.

“Markets should be allowed to compete on merits and the onus is on (Google) that its conduct does not impinge this competition on merits,” it added.

The commission levied a fine of 13.4 billion rupees ($162 million) and instructed the company not to force Android users to pre-install its apps.

It also told Google not to enter into any agreement with smartphone makers that would encourage them to only sell Android-based devices or exclusively use its software.

India is home to the second-highest number of smartphone users in the world, after China.

Its smartphone market grew 27 percent year-on-year in 2021, according to Counterpoint, with annual sales exceeding 169 million units.

More than 60 percent of phones sold in the country come from leading Chinese manufacturers including Xiaomi and Oppo.

Apple remains a minor player in the budget-conscious market but has seen some inroads in recent years, and the company last month announced plans to locally manufacture its flagship iPhone 14.

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