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India’s National Company Law Appellate Tribunal ( NCLAT ) has upheld a fine of INR 1,337.76 crore ($180 million) imposed by the country’s competition watchdog, the Competition Commission of India ( CCI ), on Google for allegedly abusing its dominant position in the Android mobile ecosystem.
The Commission has been chasing the tech giant since October 2022 and found that Google used its dominance in the online search market to block market access for rival search apps and also leveraged its position in the app store market for Android to protect its position in the online video hosting platform market through YouTube.
The NCLAT bench found that the investigation into Google’s conduct was “not in violation of natural justice principles”, and set aside certain directions issued by the Commission. The bench had reserved its orders in the matter on 20 March, and had also refused to grant interim relief to the Pichai led firm. The matter then travelled to the Supreme Court, which also denied relief to the company. Earlier this year in January, Google had warned of a potential price hike in the smartphone market and other issues that the economy may face.
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Alongside the hefty penalty, the Commission has directed Google to cease and desist from participating in anti-competitive practices and modify its misconduct within a defined time period.
The directions include that Google shall not incentivise or obligate original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) for not selling smart devices based on Android forks. Furthermore, the company shall not restrict uninstalling of its pre-installed apps by the users. It shall allow users, during the initial device setup, to choose their default search engine for all search entry points. Users should have the flexibility to easily set as well as easily change the default settings.
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Additional Solicitor General N Venkataraman who presented the CCI’s case before the NCLAT, said that Google’s policies in India can be summed up in five phrases: digital feudalism, digital slavery, technological captivity, chokepoint capitalism and consumer exploitation.