The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has ordered an investigation into Google for allegedly abusing Android mobile operating system to block rivals, two sources aware of the matter told Reuters.
“It is a strong case for the CCI, given the EU precedent. The CCI has (preliminarily) found Google abused its dominant position,” the first source told Reuters.
The CCI reportedly has been looking into the matter since last year before launching a full-blown probe in April.
The probe would be completed in about a year and Google executives would likely be summoned to appear before the CCI in coming months, the source said.
About 88% of the world’s smartphones use Android OS. In India, about 99% of the smartphones sold this year used the platform, according to Counterpoint Research.
Earlier, the European Union had hit Google with a USD 5 billion fine in the Android case. EU antitrust commissioner Margrethe Vestager said the tech giant had abused its dominant position by forcing customers of its AdSense business to sign contracts stating they would not accept advertising from rival search engines.
“The misconduct lasted over 10 years and denied other companies the possibility to compete on the merits and to innovate,” Vestager said.
Antitrust laws are applied to a wide range of questionable business activities, including but not limited to market allocation, bid rigging, price fixing, and monopolies.
Google was fined a record 4.3 billion pounds last year for abusing its market dominance in mobile, and 2.4 billion pounds the year before that for manipulating shopping search results. Google is currently appealing both cases.
Google’s total EU antitrust bill now stands at USD 9.3 billion.
If found guilty, CCI has the mandate to slap a fine of up to 10% of the relevant turnover of a company in the last three financial years, New Delhi-based antitrust lawyer Gautam Shahi told Reuters.
“They can either change their conduct in India voluntarily or let CCI investigate. Voluntary change in conduct may have an impact on the quantum of penalty, if it’s imposed,” said Shahi.
Last year, the CCI imposed a fine of USD 19.46 million on Google for “search bias” and abuse of its dominant position. Google was also held in contempt for putting its commercial flight search function in an advantageous position on the search results page.
Google, though, appealed against that order, saying the ruling could cause it “irreparable” harm and reputational loss.