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Google changes its rules for the Android platform in India

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Google’s making changes to Android after India’s antitrust authority accused it of anticompetitive practices.

Google will let Android users in India use third-party billing options starting next month as part of its compliance with a ruling from the country’s antitrust authority, the company announced in a blog post on Wednesday. The search giant will also give users the ability to choose their default search engine “via a choice screen” whenever they start setting up a new Android phone or tablet.

In October of last year, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) hit Google with a $162 million fine for “abusing its dominant position in multiple markets in the Android Mobile device ecosystem.” The CCI also imposed a series of directives, forcing Google to allow users to pick their own search engine as well as let users uninstall the Google-owned apps that come preinstalled on Android devices, such as Google Maps.

In compliance with these rules, Google says it will let smartphone makers “license individual Google apps” to preinstall on their devices as well as “introduce changes for partners to build non-compatible or forked variants.” However, the company says it will continue to “respectfully appeal certain aspects of the CCI’s decisions.”

“We take our commitment to comply with local laws and regulations in India seriously,” Google writes. “The Competition Commission of India (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.”

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Google lost its attempt to block the CCI’s decision earlier this month and argued in a filing obtained by Reuters that “tremendous advancement in growth of an ecosystem of device manufacturers, app developers and users is at the verge of coming to a halt because of the remedial directions.”

As Google faces global scrutiny over its stringent in-app payment policies, the company brought its User Choice Billing pilot — a program that lets non-gaming app developers use third-party payment options — to India last year. While it rolled out the pilot to the European Economic Area (EEA), India, Japan, Indonesia, and Australia as well, it still hasn’t launched in the US, where it’s also contending with legal issues.

On Tuesday, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Google that accuses the company of having a monopoly on the digital advertising market. Google responded by stating the suit “ignores the enormous competition in the online advertising industry.”

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