Google fined and disallowed to force Android compatibility commitment on Korean makers

2021.09.14 13:16:32 | 2021.09.14 13:20:31

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South Korea’s antitrust watchdog imposed a provisional fine of 207.4 billion won ($177 million) on Google for abusing its dominant influence to force Korean handset makers to use its Android mobile operating system (OS) while banning employment of rivaling software for applications.

Upon a third full-session review on Sept. 10, the Fair Trade Commission (FTC) on Tuesday issued a remedial order on Google LLC, Google Asia Pacific, and Google Korea to stop forcing the signing of anti-fragmentation agreement (AFA), an Android compatibility commitment contract in licensing hardware producers to install PlayStore app and Google search engine on their devices, in Korea and a fine of 207.4 billion won for abuse of dominant power and unfair business act under Korean laws.

Under the AFA, hardware makers cannot install modified versions of Android, referred as Android forks, on their devices.

By conditioning access to its app since 2011, signing of AFAs with smartphone makers around the world reached 87 percent as of 2019 to cement its global dominance, the FTC argued.

“The (punitive) move is meaningful that it can restore competitive pressure in the mobile OS and app market” and set the ground for more innovative products of wearables, robotics, and mobility based on diverse OS systems, said the FTS in a statement, winding up an investigation that started in 2016.

The measures can free companies to create so-called forks of Android, versions built from the same basic OS but modified to suit the producer’s hopes to provide diverse device classes.

The fine is Korea’s latest pushback to the multinational internet behemoth after the state became the first in the world to pass a law forcing Google and Apple Inc. to open up their app stores to other payments than their own.

Google faces three other antitrust reviews related to app market, in-app pay system and ad abuses.

By Hye-seung Seo

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