14th April 2023: In light of the recent $32 million fine imposed on Google by South Korea’s fair trade regulator, Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC), Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF) has strongly condemned the actions of the tech giant in blocking the release of games on a competitor’s platform. The Foundation believes that the incident is a clear reflection of Google’s abuse of its market dominance to stifle competition and undermine the local app markets.
Google’s actions in South Korea are a continuation of the company’s proclivity of leveraging its dominant position in the search engine and mobile operating system markets to gain an unfair advantage over competitors. This includes promoting its own products and services over others, blocking access to rival platforms, and using its control over the Android operating system to force app developers to use its payment system. In 2021, Google was fined more than 200 billion won by the KFTC for blocking smartphone makers from using other operating systems.
The Indian app market is one of the fastest-growing in the world, with millions of users and thousands of app developers. However, the lack of a level playing field and unfair policies has made it difficult for local developers to survive. This not only hurts the Indian economy but also undermines the government’s efforts to promote startups, entrepreneurship and innovation.
Monopolistic control over app marketplace in India has resulted in local developers are expected to pay exorbitant platform fees of and abide by unfair policies to gain access to the app ecosystem. This has made it difficult for Indian developers to compete on a level playing field with their global counterparts.
ADIF believes that such anti-competitive practices are detrimental to the growth and commercial viability of the Indian app ecosystem. The dominance of a few big players in the market has led to a situation where local app developers are at a significant disadvantage, both in terms of market access and visibility.
ADIF had requested on the Competition Commission of India (CCI) to investigate anticompetitive practices in the Indian app market and take appropriate action to ensure that fair competition is maintained. In addition, it has also urged the Government of India to adopt a proactive approach through framing provisions as part of Digital Competition Act to support the local app market and creating a level playing field for Indian app developers, while also taking strong actions against organizations that engage in anti-competitive practices.
Google’s actions in South Korea are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the company’s anti-competitive behaviour. The Indian app market must be protected from such practices, and local developers must be given the support they need to compete on a level playing field through policy measures under Digital India act and Digital Competition Act.