The Competition Commission of India’s (CCI) investigation arm has accused Google of anti-competitive and restrictive trade in the smartphone operating system and related markets, in what could be a damaging assessment against the US tech giant, following a two-year probe.
The CCI panel found Google India to be guilty of stifling innovation and competition to maintain its dominance market position in search, browser (Chrome), music (YouTube), app library (Play Store), and several other key services, The Times of India reported.
The probe also revealed that Google imposed one-sided contracts on device and app makers to ensure primacy of its own products and applications in consumer usage. The contracts also ensured that Google products came pre-installed as default options, tuned for highest performance.
The CCI panel questioned Google, whose Android operating system holds a nearly 98 per cent share of the smartphone market, and several companies such as Microsoft, Apple, Paytm, Amazon, PhonePe, Samsung, Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, Karbonn, and Mozilla.
The probe panel has submitted the 750-page report to the CCI, which ordered the probe against Google in April 2019. If found guilty, the search engine giant could face severe penalties or be ordered to discontinue practices that distort competition and are anti-consumer.
The US tech giant has gone through similar anti-trust investigations in the US, the European Union, Japan, and Germany.
In India, the probe panel looked into various issues following complaints made against Google India alleging hindering development and market access of rival services or apps by pushing smartphone manufacturers to pre-install the company’s proprietary services and/or apps through certain exclusive deals.
The CCI probe found that the search engine category, Google’s primary business, had been foreclosing competition in Android with the search widget being placed on device home screens by default and the Chrome browser in the Google apps folder.
With Google’s dominant market position in India through the Android operating system, this allowed the company to further consolidate the search market, the report said.