Google Fined Rs 1,338 Crore After Probe By Three Indians – Two Among Them Kashmiri Brothers, Details Here

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The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has fined tech giant Google Rs 1,338 crore for abusing its dominant position in multiple markets with its Android mobile operating system based on information provided by three young digital economy enthusiasts, The Print reported.

The CCI — the national competition regulator — is responsible for promoting competition and preventing activities that have an appreciable adverse effect on market competition in India.

An independent research project by Umar Javeed, Sukarma Thapar and Aaqib Javeed (left to right) submitted to the CCI triggered the second fine on Google | By special arrangement

As per The Print report, the first fine was for around Rs 136 crore on Google in 2018 for abusing its dominant position in online search and web advertising. The latest and third fine was for around Rs 936 crore, imposed on 25 October, for abuse of dominance in the app store market.

However, it was the second fine, of a whopping Rs 1,338 crore, that made news. While imposing the fine, CCI put forward ten measures for Google, including that Android device makers shouldn’t be forced to pre-install its services and that Google shall not restrict users from uninstalling of its pre-installed apps, the report said.

The decision was a result of information submitted to the CCI in August 2018 by Umar Javeed and Sukarma Thapar, both 27-years-old at the time and working as research associates at the CCI, and Umar’s younger brother Aaqib, who was 24 at the time and a law student at the University of Kashmir.

According to Sukarma, under the Indian competition law, individuals do not lodge complaints or cases with the CCI but only submit “information”.

After considering this information submitted by the trio, the CCI launched an investigation in April 2019 into Google’s conduct in the Android mobile device ecosystem, which eventually resulted in the 20 October CCI judgment and fine.

In its response, Google had said it would review the competition watchdog’s decision. “CCI’s decision is a major setback for Indian consumers and businesses, opening serious security risks for Indians and raising the cost of mobile devices for Indians,” it said.

When asked why they took interest to submit information to the CCI, Aaqib told ThePrint that the three of them were already interested in how the digital market was shaping up in India and how the policies and laws governing technology were influencing consumers and tech companies.

Then, events related to Google in Europe caught the trio’s attention. “In July 2018, the European Commission [the EU’s competition watchdog] imposed one of its largest fines on Google of 4.34 billion Euros for violating EU antitrust rules,” Umar said.

He said that his research was led by his interest in the developments of the digital market worldwide and his awareness that Android had a major market share in the Indian mobile market. “I started researching and found that these practices were prevalent in India as well.”

While the work Sukarma and Umar did at CCI was confidential, Sukarma said it was unrelated to the Android market in India, adding that the information the group submitted to the anti-trust watchdog about the Android market was done in individual capacity as consumers.

The process of compiling a comprehensive dossier of information was not easy and took about two months. “We had to focus on our day jobs and then research for this later in the day. That’s when we would have some free time,” Sukarma explained.

“There were many late nights and early mornings where we would just work throughout the night,” Aaqib added. “I was still a law student then and helping these guys meant I was juggling research along with studying for exams and assignments.

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