India court declines Google’s request to block Android antitrust ruling

NEW DELHI, Jan 19 (Reuters) – India’s Supreme Court on Thursday declined a request from Google which sought to have blocked an antitrust order which forces it to change how it markets its Android platform, dealing a major blow to the U.S. company in a key growth market.

The CCI fined Alphabet Inc-owned (GOOGL.O) Google $161 million for exploiting its dominant position in Android, which powers 97% of smartphones in India, and asked it to change restrictions imposed on smartphone makers related to pre-installing apps.

Google challenged the directive in the Supreme Court saying it would hurt consumers and also its business, warning the growth of the Android ecosystem could stall.

A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, which included the chief justice of India, extended the implementation date of CCI’s directives by a week beyond Jan. 19, but declined to block the ruling despite Google’s repeated requests.

It asked a lower tribunal, which is hearing the matter, to decide on Google’s challenge by March 31.

Google has been concerned about the Indian decision as the remedies ordered are seen as more sweeping than the European Commission’s landmark 2018 ruling for imposing unlawful restrictions on Android mobile device makers. Google has challenged the record $4.3 billion fine in that case.

Google licenses its Android system to smartphone makers, but critics say it imposes restrictions such as mandatory pre-installation of its own apps that are anti-competitive. The company argues such agreements help keep Android free.

Google also says in its India filings that “no other jurisdiction has ever asked for such far-reaching changes”.

Google had also argued in its legal filings, seen by Reuters, that CCI’s investigation unit “copy-pasted extensively from a European Commission decision, deploying evidence from Europe that was not examined in India”.

“We have not cut, copy and paste,” N Venkataraman, a government lawyer representing the Competition Commission of India (CCI), told the top court.

Reporting by Aditya Kalra, Arpan Chaturvedi and Munsif Vengattil; editing by Vin Shahrestani and Jason Neely

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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