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Google gets partial win in Indian antitrust case involving Android

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An Indian tribunal on Wednesday (29) granted some reprieve to Alphabet Inc’s Google GOOGL.O, as it set aside four out of the ten antitrust directives issued against the company. The case concerned Google’s dominant market position with its Android operating system.

In October, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) accused Google of leveraging its dominant position in Android and ordered the company to remove certain restrictions imposed on device makers, including those related to pre-installed apps. Additionally, Google was fined $161 million.

The tribunal upheld the CCI verdict that Google engaged in anti-competitive behaviour and must pay the imposed fine. However, the tribunal overturned four out of the ten antitrust remedies that were imposed on Google, requiring the company to change its business model.

One of these reliefs includes Google no longer needing to allow the hosting of third-party app stores within the Play Store, as previously mandated by the CCI.

This decision will provide some relief to Google, following the Indian Supreme Court’s refusal in January to suspend any of the antitrust remedies ordered in the previous year. The top court instructed the tribunal to examine the case on its merits and issue a ruling by the end of March.

After the Supreme Court’s directive, Google implemented significant changes to Android in India. These changes included allowing device manufacturers to license individual apps for pre-installation and giving users the choice to set their default search engine. The Indian appeals tribunal did not interfere with these changes on Wednesday.

Moreover, Google will not be required to allow users to uninstall pre-installed apps such as Google Maps, Gmail, and YouTube, among other relief.

The company can also continue imposing restrictions on “sideloading,” which is the practice of downloading apps without using an app store. The CCI had earlier directed Google to discontinue this practice. It remains uncertain whether Google will contest the decision to revoke the other CCI remedies.

In a statement, the company stated that it is “reviewing the order and evaluating our legal options.”

Google has been apprehensive about the Indian tribunal’s ruling as the directives were perceived to be more far-reaching than those imposed in the European Commission’s historic 2018 ruling against the operating system.

Google has stated that “no other jurisdiction has ever asked for such far-reaching changes” and has consistently contended that the decision will impede the expansion of its Android ecosystem in India.

Approximately 97 per cent of the 600 million smartphones in India operate on Android, while in Europe, the system accounts for 75 per cent of the 550 million smartphones, as estimated by Counterpoint Research.

(With inputs from Reuters)

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