Exclusive Google warns that Android growth in India will stall due to an antitrust order

NEW DELHI: The growth of Google’s Android ecosystem is on the verge of a standstill in India due to an antitrust order requiring the company to change the way it markets the platform, the US company said in a challenge to the Supreme Court submitted to Reuters.

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) in October fined Google, owned by Alphabet Inc., $161 million for exploiting its dominant position in Android, which powers 97 percent of smartphones in India, and urged it to change the restrictions that smartphone manufacturers have on installing apps.

Google has previously said the CCI ruling will force it to change its long-standing business model, but its filing with India’s Supreme Court quantifies the impact for the first time and outlines the changes the company needs to make.

Google must amend its existing contracts, introduce new licensing agreements, and amend its existing agreements with more than 1,100 device makers and thousands of app developers, it said.

“The tremendous growth progress of an ecosystem of device manufacturers, app developers and users is on the verge of a standstill due to the remedial measures,” says Google’s non-public filing.

“Google needs to make sweeping changes to the Android mobile platform, which has been around for 14-15 years.”

A Google spokesman declined to comment.

Google was concerned about India’s decision as the remedies it ordered are seen as more far-reaching than the European Commission’s landmark 2018 ruling imposing unlawful restrictions on Android mobile device makers. Google has appealed the record $4.3 billion fine in that case.

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Google licenses its Android system to smartphone makers, but critics say it imposes restrictions like mandatory pre-installation of its own apps, which are anti-competitive. The company argues that such agreements help keep Android free.

The CCI ordered Google in October not to ban the uninstallation of its apps by Android phone users in India – currently one cannot delete apps like Google Maps or YouTube from their Android phones if they are pre-installed.

The CCI also said that Google’s licensing for its Play Store “should not be linked to the requirement of pre-installation” of Google search services, the Chrome browser, YouTube or other Google applications.

“No other jurisdiction has ever required such sweeping changes based on similar behavior,” Google said in its court filings.

The company has asked the Supreme Court to stay remedial measures ordered by the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, which take effect from Jan. 19, court documents dated Jan. 7 showed. The case is expected to be heard in the coming days.

Google has also claimed in its legal filing that the investigative unit of the CCI copied parts of a 2018 European judgment against the US firm, Reuters reported. The IHK and the European Commission have not responded to these allegations.