The October 2022 CCI ruling against Google and the recent decision by NCLAT where it refused to grant interim protection to the tech giant has been a move that has been welcomed by many in the Indian tech community. The CCI ruling categorically demonstrates multiple anti-competitive actions carried out by Google in the last decade. In fact, rather than promoting innovation and competition, Google has only focused on keeping competition out of the Android ecosystem with its unfair and restrictive policies and flagging them as a security risk. The Indian app ecosystem will benefit immensely from healthy and fair competition, enabling choice and fueling further innovation, which is essential for any thriving ecosystem.
User preference and choice are the top priorities for tech companies globally, with Google itself advocating for an open and fair internet for more than a decade now. Tech companies worldwide, strive to provide positive experiences to users and give them the offerings they need. However, Google, despite supporting an open and fair internet, has been disregarding what will benefit users to continue its monopolistic practices.
In its order, CCI asked Google to cease practices that hinder users’ ability to choose services according to their needs and preferences. In response, a Google spokesperson said, “The CCIs decision is a major setback for Indian consumers and businesses, opening serious security risks for Indians who trust Android’s security features.”
Today when a company wants to build mapping solutions customized for Indians and acquire users solely based on merit, it is treated as a security risk for users. The correct conclusion, however, should be that it is a risk for the tech giant. Masking monopolistic practices behind ‘security concerns’ and not providing a level-playing field to compete in the market fairly cannot be acceptable in any ecosystem.
Another example of Google’s monopoly is its Play Store. Android users constitute 95.8% of the Indian smartphone market share. However, there is only one “safe” option for users to download the apps, through the Google Play Store. The choice of multiple app stores will only give freedom to users to download apps as per their needs and choice. For example, a farming-specific app store would be more beneficial to farmers and aid them with a more personalized approach. Calling the CCI’s order to allow the distribution of alternate app stores a security concern is unfair to all the stakeholders in the ecosystem. Furthermore, Google Play Store already distributes MeitY’s mSeva AppStore. In a 2020 blog, Google also mentioned that they will be making changes in Android 12 to make it easier for people to use alternate app stores on their devices. However, we have not seen any major changes in the subsequent Android updates in this regard. This sanctimonious approach certifies Google’s disinclination towards providing a level playing field to all.
If providing more choices to users imposes a security risk, then Google has fundamentally created a monopolistic architecture that is not in the best interest of users. Rather than contesting CCI’s order, the tech giant should work on fixing its architecture, and truly benefit Indian users, developers, and OEMs.
Google has a number of ongoing antitrust lawsuits against it across the globe. The European Union also fined them for exploiting its market dominance to its advantage and abusing the EU antitrust laws. Along with EU, Japan, the US, and the UK are also investigating the anti-competitive practices of Google. Therefore it cannot be a mere coincidence that governments across the world are finding deep flaws in the working and policies of the tech giant and that only goes on to prove that Google needs to change its way of operating.
Google has challenged the CCI ruling in the Supreme Court of India and a hearing on the same is due next week. The Indian startup community looks forward to the decision of the top court and is hopeful that the progressive measures and changes mentioned in the CCI order are taken into account, and that a level playing field is created where Indian stakeholders work diligently and fairly to create a truly localized, indigenous & secure smartphone ecosystem.