Hearing Google’s plea for a stay on the Competition Commission of India’s (CCI) order which has directed the tech major to make changes to its Android ecosystem by January 19, the Supreme Court on Monday asked if the company practices the same regime in India as in Europe.
“Please reflect on this and come back. We will hear this case on Wednesday,” a bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala said.
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Google moved SC seeking an interim stay on the CCI order, which has also levied a penalty of Rs 1,338 crore on it, after the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) on January 4 declined to offer relief and directed the company to deposit 10% of the penalty levied.
NCLAT has, however, admitted Google‘s petition challenging CCI’s order. But Google needs an interim stay on the order before January 19 or else it will have to uninstall all pre-loaded apps on Android phones and let users select a search engine of their choice. Currently, a user cannot delete apps such as Google Maps or YouTube from Android phones when they come pre-installed.
In its October 2022 order, CCI said Google had abused its dominance in the licensing of the operating system for smart mobile devices, app store market for Android smart mobiles, general web search services, non-operating system-specific mobile web browsers, and online video hosting platforms in the country.
In April 2019, the anti-trust regulator had ordered a detailed probe in the matter following complaints by Android-based smartphone users. Android is an open-source mobile operating system installed by original equipment manufacturers of smartphones and tablets.
In a blog post last week, Google said the CCI order strikes a blow to the effort to accelerate digital adoption in India and will lead to higher prices.
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India, it said, is at a juncture where barriers to access must be brought down, and safe and secure smartphones made available to all.
“In 2008, when Android launched, access to smart, internet-enabled devices was a huge challenge due to prohibitive costs. Over the last 15 years, through Android’s free open-source software and suite of high-quality apps, Google has helped device manufacturers make smartphones more affordable by a vast margin,” it said. As a result, a fully functional smartphone is available at less than Rs 6,000.
“For a country like India, where the cost of adoption is the biggest barrier to digitisation, this has had profound implications. More users have incentivised more developers, and each of those developers achieve immediate scale by writing a single app for Android,” it said.
Around 97% smartphones in the country are on the Android operating system.