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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO – This illustration, taken July 13th 2021 shows the Google app on a smartphone. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration//File Photo

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By Aditya Kalra

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Google abused the dominant position of its Android operating system in India, using its “huge financial muscle” to illegally hurt competitors, the country’s antitrust authority found in a report on its two-year probe seen by Reuters.

The June report of the Competition Commission of India’s investigations unit (CCI) states that Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:) reduced the “ability and incentive of device manufacturer to develop and sale devices operating on alternate versions of Android.”

In a statement, the U.S. tech company stated that it is looking forward to working closely with CCI in order to show how Android has allowed for more innovation and competition.

According to Reuters, Google did not receive the investigation report.

CCI has not responded to the request for comment. A source familiar with this case said that senior CCI members would review the report, giving Google another chance of defending itself.

Google could appeal against any Indian court order.

Its findings are the latest antitrust setback for Google in India, where it faces several probes in the payments app https://reut.rs/2B9ODC5 and smart television https://reut.rs/30JTioa markets. It has faced investigations in Europe and the United States. This week, South Korea’s antitrust regulator fined Google https://www.reuters.com/technology/skorean-antitrust-agency-fines-google-177-mln-abusing-market-dominance-2021-09-14 $180 million for blocking customised versions of Android.

‘VAGUE, BIASED AND ARBITRARY’

Google submitted at least 24 responses during the probe, defending itself and arguing it was not hurting competition, the report says.

Microsoft Corp (NASDAQ:), Amazon.com Inc (NASDAQ:), Apple Inc (NASDAQ:), as well as smartphone makers like Samsung (KS:) and Xiaomi (OTC:), were among 62 entities that responded to CCI questions during its Google investigation, the report says.

Counterpoint Research has found that Android is responsible for 98% of India’s 520 million smartphone users.

When the CCI ordered the probe https://www.reuters.com/article/us-google-india-antitrust-exclusive/exclusive-google-appears-to-have-leveraged-android-dominance-india-watchdog-idUSKCN1TT1Q2 in 2019, it said Google appeared to have leveraged its dominance to reduce device makers’ ability to opt for alternate versions of its mobile operating system and force them to pre-install Google apps.

According to the 750-page report, the pre-installation of applications “amounts as an imposition of unfair conditions on the device manufacturer” under India’s competition laws. However, the company used the Play Store app store position to preserve its dominant position.

According to the report, Play Store policies were “one-sided”, ambiguous and vague. Android, however, has “enjoyed its dominant position” among licensable OS for tablets and smartphones since 2011.

The probe was triggered in 2019 after two Indian junior antitrust research associates and a law student filed a complaint https://www.reuters.com/article/us-google-india-antitrust-idUSKCN1U40DY, Reuters reported.

India is still a major growth market for Google. It said last year it would spend $10 billion https://www.reuters.com/article/us-google-india-idINKCN24E0YL in the country over five to seven years through equity investments and tie-ups, its biggest commitment to a key growth market.



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