Google Hit With $162 Million Fine For Restrictive Practices On The Android Platform

The competition regulator of India has slapped Google with a fine worth around $162 million for allegedly abusing its dominant market position in the smartphone market. During the course of its investigation, the agency targeted four key agreements that Google made its partners sign, which subsequently paved the way for restrictions and allowed the company undue leverage in the smartphone market.

To start, the MADA agreement ensured that Google services like search, Chrome browser, and YouTube came pre-installed on Android devices, offering the company unfairly high access in those segments over rivals. With the ACC and AFA agreements, Google prohibited smartphone and tablet makers from developing Android forks and selling devices running Android-based software without a core Google service like Search.

The Competition Commission of India further notes that Google used the RSA agreement to get exclusive perks for its Search service on Android phones. In doing so, Google had an unfair "competitive edge" when it came to ad revenue from search. Plus, those search queries helped Google improves its own service over time while rivals were left out of the mobile ecosystem. The latest antitrust penalty in India echoes similar concerns raised in the EU, which culminated in fines worth billions of dollars on the search giant.

Familiar problems, new restrictions

In addition to slapping a monetary fine for anti-competitive conduct on Google, the country's competition authority has also issued a cease and desist order that directs the company to stop the problematic activities that allegedly violate antitrust laws. The CCI has told Google that smartphone makers will no longer be forced to pre-install Google's core apps like Gmail, Maps, YouTube, and Chrome.

Moreover, Google can no longer force OEMs to pre-install the aforementioned apps if they seek to license access to the Google Play Store, the central repository where Android apps are listed for download by smartphone users. Google has also been asked to lift restrictions that it imposes on developing Android forks and selling devices that run such software.

The Competition Commission of India has told Google to stop giving any kind of incentive or preferential treatment to brands that obey its no-fork policy. More importantly, smartphone users will be offered the flexibility to set the search engine of their choice during device set-up, and also change it whenever they want to. A Google spokesperson told CNBC that the company will go over the "narrow concerns" outlined by the competition watchdog and will accordingly chart the course ahead. But the troubles are far from over for the company. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Google has been sued in Texas for collecting biometric facial and voice data of users without their proper consent.