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Google Weighing Legal Options After NCLAT's Android Antitrust Decision

NCLAT had set aside four of the ten corrective steps ordered by CCI while upholding the competition watchdog's penalty of Rs 1,338 crore

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Google announced on Wednesday that it is evaluating its legal options following the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal's (NCLAT) partial upholding of the Competition Commission of India's (CCI) Android dominance ruling against the tech giant.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to present our case to the NCLAT and we are reviewing the order and weighing our legal options,” said a Google spokesperson in a statement.

The tribunal upheld the Rs 1,338 crore penalty issued by CCI on the Android maker on March 29 for abusing its dominant position in multiple marketplaces in the Android Mobile device ecosystem. It had, however, set aside four of the ten corrective steps ordered by the antitrust watchdog.

Among the benefits, Google will no longer be required to allow the hosting of third-party app stores on the Play Store or to limit user removal of Google's pre-installed apps such as Google Maps, Gmail and YouTube.

The tech titan can also continue to restrict app distribution via sideloading and avoid sharing its private Play Services APIs (Application Program Interface) with competitors, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and developers.

Google relocated the NCLAT in January but did not receive instant relief. The company then appealed the tribunal's ruling to the Supreme Court. In turn, the Supreme Court declined to intervene in the matter and directed NCLAT to investigate it.

Google has been given 30 days to pay the fine and comply with the ruling. The business can also appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

In terms of users, India is Google's biggest market. Google's Android operating system is used by 97-98 per cent of the country's 600 million smartphone users. India is also one of Google Play's most important markets in terms of software downloads and users.

Google stated on January 26 that it will make significant changes to its Android and Play businesses to comply with CCI's directives. A month later, the company announced that beginning on 26 April 2023, app developers will be able to give an alternate billing system for in-app purchases within India.

According to the new policy, if a user pays through the alternative billing system (also known as the User Choice billing system), the transaction will still incur a service charge, but at a 4 per cent lower rate.

This essentially means that developers will have to pay Google a service fee ranging from 6-26 per cent for in-app purchases and subscriptions, depending on the sort of app/service and the annual revenue it generates on Google Play, rather than the standard 10-30 per cent service fee.

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