Google fined £127m by South Korea for blocking Android customisation

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Google is to be fined at least US$177m (£127m) for preventing smartphone makers such as Samsung from using customized versions of its Android operating system.

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South Korea’s competition watchdog, the Fair Trade Commission (FTC), has taken issue with the tech giant’s use of anti-fission agreements that have barred hardware partners from making changes to their operating systems. It ruled that Google would be prohibited from forcing manufacturers to sign these in the future, and existing agreements should be revised.

Google has said it plans to challenge the ruling and has accused the South Korean authority of failing to take into account the ways in which its software policy actually benefits manufacturers as well as consumers. Is.


The commission’s chairman, Joh Sung-wook, said in a statement: “The decision of the Korea Fair Trade Commission is meaningful in the way that it provides an opportunity to restore future competitive pressure in the mobile OS and app markets”.

It said Google has hindered competition in the country since 2011, requiring its hardware partners to sign anti-fragmentation agreements, which prohibit hardware companies from installing modified versions of the Google operating system on their smart devices. Is. The FTC says these agreements enabled Google to abuse its dominant market position to consolidate its leadership in mobile software and mobile applications.

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Currently, Android is the most popular mobile operating system in the world, installed on more than 80 percent of smart phones globally.

Ms Joh said manufacturers such as Samsung and LG were forced to accept these terms in order to access App Store licensing or obtain early access computer codes, which allow smartphone and smart watch makers to use Android and other Google’s new devices. Allows to build compatible devices prior to release. Operating System.

In one instance in 2013, under these agreements, Samsung, the maker of Galaxy Android phones, was forced to cancel its plans to use customized Google software on its Galaxy Gear smartwatches. The company briefly switched to a little-known operating system called Tizen, but ultimately failed due to its lack of applications and abandoned the enterprise.

All Samsung smartwatches are now powered by Google’s Wear operating system.

Similarly, LG was also prevented from releasing smart speakers based on customized Google software.

In an emailed statement, Google explained AP News That Korea’s competition watchdog was ignoring the benefits offered by Android’s compatibility with other programs. The company claimed that Android’s compatibility program, which defines requirements for hardware manufacturers, led to “incredible hardware and software innovation” and “massive success” for Korean hardware manufacturers and developers.

“KFTC’s decision issued today completely ignores these benefits, and will undermine the benefits enjoyed by consumers. Google intends to appeal the KFTC decision,” Google said.

A second FTC official, Kim Min-jong, said that although the fine Google was facing would be the ninth-largest total ever imposed by the competition watchdog, it could actually be even bigger.

It said the current fine is temporary, as it is based on revenue generated by Google in the country from 2011 to April 2021. The final figure, which is expected to be released in the coming months, could be slightly higher than anticipated in the US. $177mn.

South Korea has also begun implementing an amended telecommunications law that prohibits app market operators — such as Google and Apple — from requiring smartphone users to pay using its in-app purchase system. For years the tech giant has forced app developers to use built-in payment processes only for in-app purchases, which pays commissions to Apple and Google of up to 30 percent of all transactions.

But the amended law requires major platform owners, such as Google and Apple, to allow developers to install third-party payment systems in their apps.

On Tuesday, the Korea Communications Commission announced that the amended law had come into force, making South Korea the first country in the world to adopt such regulation.

With additional reporting from agencies


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