Google on Friday slammed competition watchdog penalties for alleged abuse of its dominance, saying the orders hit efforts to accelerate digital adoption in India and would lead to higher prices.
Failed to get interim relief exceeding Rs. With the Competition Commission of India (CCI) slapping a 22 billion fine, the US tech giant penned a blog titled ‘The Heart of the Matter’, laying out its view on how the order will harm the country’s digital ecosystem.
India, it said, is at a point where it must lower barriers to access and provide safe and secure smartphones to all.
“At a time when only half of India’s population is connected, the direction in the CCI order is a blow to the entire ecosystem’s efforts to accelerate digital adoption in the country,” it said, adding that the company is appealing the orders.
In October last year, CCI received Rs. Google was fined $13,377.6 million for exploiting its dominance over Android, which powers 97% of smartphones in India. It imposes another Rs. The US tech giant was fined 9.36 billion in a case related to its Play Store policies.
While in the first case, the CCI asked Google to allow smartphone users on the Android platform to uninstall apps and let them choose a search engine of their choice, the regulator has asked the company to redress its policy of forcing developers to use Google Play Measure billing systems list their apps on their Play Store.
At this time, pre-installed applications such as Google Maps or YouTube on Android phones cannot be removed.
Google failed to obtain relief from the appeals court NCLAT, which ordered the company to pay a 10% penalty within four weeks. Google has since taken the case to the Supreme Court in at least one case.
In a blog post, Google said Android is a key part of India’s mobile and internet growth story.
“In 2008, when Android was launched, access to smart Internet devices was a huge challenge due to the prohibitive cost. Over the past 15 years, Google has helped device manufacturers greatly Reduced prices of smartphones,” it said.
So, a fully functional smartphone can be had for less than Rs. 6,000.
“For a country like India, the cost of adoption is the biggest hurdle to digitization, and this has far-reaching consequences. More users incentivize more developers, and each of those developers builds on Android by writing an application to scale immediately,” it said.
India’s annual app downloads will hit a new high of 29 billion in 2022, making it the second-largest app market after China, offering developers in India and elsewhere a strong platform to build a viable business on the Play Store.
Google said that predatory apps put users at risk of financial fraud and data theft, and that while it scans apps in its Play Store for malware and complies with local laws, for apps sideloaded from other sources, The same checks may not be performed.
It said the remedies ordered by the CCI hit India’s digital adoption drive and adding to the remedies ordered by the regulator would lead to more online harm and privacy risks.
“Devices built on incompatible ‘forks’ (or different versions of Android) will prevent Google from protecting these devices, as those versions will not support the security and user safety features Google provides,” it said.
“A lack of robust and consistent security updates will expose users of these devices to cybercrime, vulnerabilities, and malware—most disturbingly for the millions of new internet users who are especially vulnerable,” it added.
Today, Android provides the right balance of consistent security cornerstones through baseline compatibility, while device manufacturers have the option to create customized and highly differentiated user experiences for their brands.
“The uncontrolled proliferation of such apps on less secure devices could expose large numbers of Indian users to the risk of data breaches and pose a threat to personal and national security,” Google said.
Since incompatible forks of Android will not support security and user safety features provided by Google, the responsibility for security of these devices will fall on the OEMs, who will need to invest heavily in creating consistent, year-round security updates themselves.
This would lead to higher costs for OEMs, which in turn would lead to higher prices for devices for Indian consumers, it said.
Thanks to Android’s Compatibility Program, when a developer writes an application for Android, the application has instant access to Android’s large user base. This allows even small developers to compete with larger developers in the entire Android ecosystem based on the product’s merits and strengths.
If the CCI order is implemented, “they will no longer have the level playing field with Android today, and larger developers who can support a wider range of incompatible branches will be able to dominate the market based on their size, not the quality of their products ,”it says.
Google said the free Android operating system enables device makers to build a wide range of devices at different price points, giving users unprecedented choice.
Android gives OEMs the freedom to pre-install any other app and app store, and they already do.
“Users are free to install apps (‘sideload’) from sources other than the app store – in which case Android displays an alert to ensure users are aware of their safety when they act.
“For developers, in addition to providing a broad and vibrant platform to reach users, Android offers tools, predictability, timely security updates and multiple monetization options,” it added.