NCLAT upholds Rs 1,338 crore fine on Google for abusing dominant position in Android ecosystem

NEW DELHI: In a major setback to global tech giant Google LLC and its Indian arm Google India, the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) today upheld the fine of Rs 1,337 crore imposed by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) for allegedly abusing its position in the Android mobile ecosystem.

While upholding the fine imposed by CCI for exploiting its dominant position in Android, the Tribunal found that the report of an investigation by the CCI into Google’s conduct was not in violation of the principle of natural justice thus upholding the impugned order passed by CCI dated 20-10-2022, but it scrapped conditions like allowing hosting of third-party app stores on its Play Store. 

In its 189-page order, the two-member bench of NCLAT led by chairperson Justice Ashok Bhushan and Dr Alok Srivastava asked Google to implement the direction and deposit the amount in 30 days. The order said, "The appellant (google) is allowed to deposit the penalty after adjusting 10 per cent of the amount already deposited as per its previous order of January 4 within a period of 30 days. The order also allowed Google 30 days to implement the measures as directed by the CCI, which NCLAT has upheld.

The NCLAT, upheld CCI’s six directions, including one in which Google was asked to allow the users during the initial device setup to choose their default search engine and another that had made it clear that OEMs could not be forced to pre-install a bouquet of apps. 

Earlier on 04-01-2023, NCLAT had refused to grant interim relief to Google and had directed to deposit 10% of INR 936 crore penalty. Google had challenged this before the Supreme Court of India (SC) which was disposed of on January 19, refusing to interfere with the order passed by NCLAT. 

Google had contended before the SC that the CCI’s order suffered from confirmation bias and was based on a similar order from the European Commission in 2018. The company’s agreements do not prevent equipment manufacturers from pre-installing competing apps with similar functionality. It was further stated that mere dominance in a market does not mean abuse of dominance, and the reason Google is popular among users is because of its effectiveness.


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