Google has been fined $161.9 million by the Competition Commission of India "for abusing its dominant position in multiple markets" by favoring its own suite of apps within Android, the regulator said in a press release Thursday.
The commission said Google's business model relies on getting as many people to use its products and services as possible because the data gathered from people who use Search, Chrome and other Google services can be used to court advertisers. In addition, Google enters into agreements with device manufacturers to preinstall Google apps and services, giving it a "competitive edge," according to the commission.
A cease and desist order issued by the commission is intended to keep Google from "indulging in anti-competitive practices." It also said that manufacturers shouldn't be required to preinstall Google apps, that Google can't give monetary or other incentives for exclusivity, and that Google can't deny access to Play Services APIs.
The commission said it rejected Google's argument that competitive constraints would make it more difficult to face down Apple. Where Apple tries to vertically integrate its products into one ecosystem, Google's intent is to increase users of revenue-earning services, such as Search.
Google called the decision a "major setback" for users.
"Android has created more choice for everyone, and supports thousands of successful businesses in India and around the world, a Google spokesperson said in a statement. "The CCI's decision is a major setback for Indian consumers and businesses, opening serious security risks for Indians who trust Android's security features, and raising the cost of mobile devices for Indians. We will review the decision to evaluate next steps."
Scrutiny in India over Google's potential anti-competitive practices comes as regulators and lawmakers in the US, Asia and Europe are also looking at the search giant's dominance. Last month, a European court upheld a record $4 billion fine over antitrust violations related to deals Google made with Android manufacturers. South Korea fined Google $177 million last month for making manufacturers such as Samsung and LG sign "anti-fragmentation agreements" barring use of rival operating systems. Earlier this year, reports began to surface that the US Department of Justice was preparing to sue Google over its dominance in online advertising.
The string of lawsuits follows a trend of greater scrutiny toward Big Tech companies and their influence in general, as Apple, Amazon and Google have posted record profits.
Google's dominance in India is hard to ignore. Android holds more than 95% market share in India, according to Statista. The country is projected to have 1 billion smartphone users by 2026, according to data from Deloitte. And it's not done. Google is investing $10 billion in India, including $4.5 billion into Jio Platforms, an India-based telecom, movie and music company.