Startups in India cheered a decision by the country’s apex court to uphold an antitrust order that forces Google to change how it runs its popular Android platform.
The ruling will open the market for Google’s rivals and boost competition, Indian tech startup founders said.
In a major setback for Google, the Supreme Court of India on Thursday declined its request to block the antitrust directives imposed by the country’s regulators in October last year.
The directives, by the Competition Commission of India, force Google to make changes like allowing third-party app stores to be housed within its Play Store. They also prevent the company from enforcing agreements that ensure exclusivity of its search services and mandatory pre-installation of its apps.
Google, which vowed to cooperate with the country’s competition authority on Friday, now has seven days to comply with regulations.
The US tech giant has previously said the ruling would hurt its consumers and stall growth of the Android ecosystem in India.
Google ruling a ‘watershed moment’
“We are elated,” said Rohan Verma, CEO of maps service MapmyIndia. He said his app had not gained market share over the years because the Google Maps app was pre-installed on many Android phones. The app launched in 2004.
The CCI order states Google can’t impose such requirements now.
“There was negative impact over the years, we hope now consumers and device makers use our app more,” Verma said.
About 97% of 600 million smartphone devices in India run on Android, according to Counterpoint Research. Apple has just a 3% share.
Google licences the Android system to smartphone makers, saying it provides more choice for everyone. It says the agreements it strikes help keep the operating system free and open-source. However, critics say they are anti-competitive.
Rakesh Deshmukh, CEO of Indus OS, which runs a rival app store to Google’s, said the ruling a “watershed moment”. It will give consumers more choice and promote use of apps, he said.
“This is a landmark decision in the history of competition law in India and globally,” lawyer Naval Chopra said. His firm Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas has challenged Google in courts in the past.
The CCI directives “may well lead to a new Indian competitor in video hosting, mapping, web browsers or, dare we say it, search,” he said.
- Reuters, with additional editing by Vishakha Saxena