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India's Supreme Court finds Google's appeal against monopoly fines unappealing

Vast and unpleasant – for Google – changes to the Android ecosystem remain a possibility

Google has lost a court bid to avoid payment of fines levied on it by India's Competition Commission, and massive changes to the way it does business in India.

India's Competition Commission last year found Google guilty of abusing its dominant position in the Android Mobile device ecosystem and its operation of the Play Store.

In the Android case, Google was ordered to make the following significant changes to the way it behaves:

  • Allowing third—party app stores to be sold on Google Play;
  • Allowing side-loading of apps;
  • Giving users choice of default search engine other than Google when setting up a device;
  • Not requiring the pre-installation of Google apps on Android devices;
  • Ceasing payments to handset makers to secure search exclusivity;
  • Not denying access to Android APIs to developers who build apps that run on Android forks, and allowing such forks.

Google also faced a ₹1337.76 crore ($162 million) fine for its Android-related behavior.

The text ads giant appealed the decision to India's National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) and sought a stay on the fine. It also pointed out that the Competition Commission copied and pasted examples of monopolistic practices from a case heard in the European Union. The search leviathan argued that if India's government couldn't find local instances of monopolistic behavior to consider, its decisions were not well-informed.

NCLAT denied Google's appeal and set January 19 as the date on which Google was required to submit at least ten percent of the fine.

Google took the decision not to stay the fine to India's Supreme Court, which last week issued an order [PDF] denying Google an appeal and sending Google back to NCLAT for a consideration of the Competition Commission's decision.

The Supreme Court asked NCLAT to decide the matter by March 31, 2023.

The abovementioned changes to Google's Android-related ops therefore remain a real possibility.

Not all of them will tax the droid factory, as third-party app stores are already available in Android and it's possible to install apps from .APK files.

Other requirements will not be welcome. Indeed, Google has already argued that India's requirements will harm the Android ecosystem and, by doing so, disadvantage India.

As the case proceeded, an Indian official dangled the prospect of building a government-backed mobile OS to cut through Google's market dominance.

For now, Google must come up with $16 million to pay the first ten percent of the fine it has appealed. Alphabet, Google's parent company, generated $13.9 billion net income for its most-recently-reported quarter, on $69 billion of revenue. Sixteen million dollars will therefore not be hard to find. But Google's attempts to overturn the Commission's decision suggest it feels there is much, much, more to lose than just money. ®

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