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Google acts on CCI order: Android users can now pick default search engine

Says will take time to make all the changes that CCI has asked for

Google | Competition Commission of India | Supreme Court

Shivani Shinde  |  Mumbai 

Photo: Bloomberg
Photo: Bloomberg

Manufacturers will be able to license individual apps for pre-installation on smartphones, and Android users will now have the option to pick a default search engine on their devices, the tech giant said on Wednesday.

This follows the Supreme Court’s refusal to grant any interim relief against a National Company Law Appellate Tribunal order that had upheld a (CCI) antitrust ruling.

The CCI had slapped a Rs 1,337.76-crore penalty on for anti-competitive practices and also a second fine of Rs 936.44 crore on the company for abusing its dominant position through its Play Store policies.

In a blog post, Google said: “We take our commitment to comply with local laws and regulations in India seriously. The CCI’s recent directives for Android and Play require us to make significant changes for India, and today we’ve informed the CCI of how we will be complying with their directives.”

Google said that it was making required changes, whose implementation will be a complex process that will demand significant efforts including from its partners, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and developers.

It listed multiple key changes that Google will make to its platforms and business in India. For instance, OEMs will be able to license individual Google apps for pre-installation on their devices. “Android users have always been able to customise their devices to suit their preferences. Indian users will now have the option to choose their default search engine via a choice screen that will soon start to appear when a user sets up a new Android smartphone or tablet in India,” it added.

Google is also updating the Android compatibility requirements to introduce changes for partners to build non-compatible or forked variants. Another change that it noted was availability of user choice billing for all apps and games starting next month. “Through user choice billing, developers can offer users the option to choose an alternative billing system alongside Google Play’s billing system when purchasing in-app digital content.”

Android has always supported the installation of apps from a variety of sources, including via sideloading that involves app downloads directly from a developer’s website, the blog post pointed out. “Google recently made changes to the Android installation flow and auto-updating capability for sideloaded apps and app stores while ensuring users understand the potential security risks.”

Google is also expanding its online resources such as Help Center articles and FAQs to provide more detail on services provided by Google Play and how and when Google Play’s service fee applied, Google said.

Local developers have built successful businesses and found global audiences for their apps and games resulting in a 150 per cent increase in time spent by users outside India in 2021 compared to 2019 on Google Play. “We believe technology can help unlock opportunities in core areas of the Indian economy and we look forward to continuing to partner in this journey,” said the blog.

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First Published: Wed, January 25 2023. 21:24 IST