CCI asks mobile companies for information on agreements with Google



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NOVA DÉLHI – The investigation wing of the Indian Competition Commission (ITC) has sought details on agreements between smartphone makers and Google or group companies as the antitrust regulator deepens its investigation into allegations of misuse by the operating system Android. (THE). This follows the European Union fined Google for abuse of Android's market dominance last year.

The director general of the CCI issued letters to several mobile phone manufacturers, including Samsung, Xiaomi, Karbonn and Lava, seeking information on the terms and conditions of the agreements with Google. The ITC also wants to know whether Google has imposed restrictions on the company's use of mobile applications and services over eight years, starting in April 2011.

He also sought details on "license fees or royalty payments made to Google for using the Android operating system and Google's mobile services annually from April 2011 to March 2019."

ET saw a copy of the ICC letter to the companies, which was sent last month.

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The companies had two weeks to respond, since ongoing research is "time-limited." While companies confirmed receipt of the notice, they declined to comment.

The regulator began its investigation into Google's operating system in mid-April, after complaints that Android – which had a 99% market share in India in March 2019 – was blocking other companies. Google said it will work with the watchdog. People aware of the matter have said Google executives are likely to be called in to appear before the regulator as part of the investigation.

This is the second such investigation for Mountain View, a company based in California in India.

Rs 136-cr Fine in 2018

In February 2018, the ICC had imposed a fine of Rs 136 crore on Google India for search bias and abusing its dominant position in a complaint filed in 2012.

Google was asked to pay $ 5 billion (Rs. 35,000 crore) by EU regulators last year after finding it guilty of abusing Android's dominance in the market in three respects – grouping the Chrome search engine and application in the SO; blocking mobile phone manufacturers from creating devices running forked versions of Android; and make payments to certain large manufacturers and mobile network operators to exclusively group the Google search application on mobile devices.

Other details sought by CCI include the annual sale of OS devices for brands, smartphones and tablets between 2011 and 2019. It also requested information on mobile application distribution, anti-fragmentation, Android compatibility, or any other agreement with Google or any of its units in the same period. Companies that want Google applications to sign an anti-fragmentation agreement, meaning that they can not choose which applications to offer from the product package.

Cellular manufacturers will also have to share information in their own app stores, the number of apps they bring, annual investment in R & D, maintenance and upgrades of app stores and annual revenue over the same period. The CCI also asked whether rival app stores could be installed on smartphones and looked for details on that.

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