South Korean competition watchdog fines Google $177 million for blocking Android forks

nanoguy

Posts: 981   +14
Staff member
In brief: Google was found in violation of competition law in South Korea, after an investigation revealed it had forced OEMs to sign "anti-fragmentation agreements." This is only one of several fines levied on the company in recent years, and it looks like more punitive measures may be on the way.

Google is no stranger to antitrust fines. The latest comes from South Korea's Fair Trade Commission (KFTC), who recently announced that it levied a 207.4 billion won ($177 million) fine on the search giant for allegedly abusing its market power in the Android ecosystem and stifling competition and innovation in mobile operating systems.

According to the KFTC, the decision is the result of an investigation that found Google required phone manufacturers to sign something called an "anti-fragmentation agreement." This means that in order for an OEM to get access to Android, it would have to agree to a set of terms that prohibit the installation of forks -- modified versions of Android -- on its devices.

The KFTC found this to be in violation of local antitrust law, so it ordered Google and its local subsidiaries to cease the practice and remove the requirement from its existing contracts. Korea's competition watchdog is also conducting three separate investigations into the Play Store, its billing system, and Google's practices in the advertising market, respectively.

A Google spokesperson explained that Android's compatibility program has been conducive to the success of hardware and software innovators in the Android ecosystem. The company believes "the KFTC’s decision released today ignores these benefits, and will undermine the advantages enjoyed by consumers."

Google plans to appeal the KFTC's ruling, which applies to more than just smartphones -- smartwatches, tablets, smart TVs, and all other Android devices are included in the corrective measures. This also comes just as South Korea passed its "anti-Google law," which requires companies like Google and Apple to allow developers to bypass their app store payment systems.

The $177 million fine may seem like a mere slap on the wrist for Google, but this is only one in a string of levies received this year.

Back in May, Google was fined $123 million in Italy for stifling competition in the Android Auto space. In July, France hit Google to the tune of $591 million for failing to negotiate fair deals with local news publishers. In the US, the search giant faces its biggest antitrust lawsuit yet over its alleged gatekeeping of Android through the Play Store.

Masthead credit Kai Wenzel

Permalink to story.

 

raydpratt007

Posts: 17   +15
This very day I searched for about an hour for alternatives to Android. The impetus came from trying to transfer a video from my phone to my Ubuntu 20.04 computer. I had to upload it to Google, archive it, and then download it. I could not get a simple usb cable transfer to work. I find that abusive. The alternatives that I found are either out-of-date or not verified to work on my phone. I can only hope that a viable alternative phone OS will present itself.
 

Norsiiii

Posts: 85   +110
Hmm, I'm in 2 minds reading this. Whilst I would never feel an ounce of empathy for Google nor ever support their oft-slimy business practices, I can't help but think back to the earlier days of Android where every manufacturer used their own heavily modified and excessively skinned versions of the OS, resulting in a hugely fragmented and un-cohesive ecosystem. In that sense, having all of the OEMs on the same page and using the same 'base' version of Android is kinda maybe not an entirely bad thing?

At the same time though I can obviously see how forcing everyone to not sell devices with any modifications to Android could stifle competition and innovation. Particularly on non-smartphone devices like watches and TVs I really don't see the advantage in locking it down like this. I'm just not sure that out of all the potential bases for anti-trust lawsuits against Google and all of the shitty things they do that this one is very high up the list of importance...
 

Uncle Al

Posts: 8,247   +7,016
When they start leveling fines in the Billions of dollars, these companies might, just might, start taking notice .......
 

Uncle Al

Posts: 8,247   +7,016
This very day I searched for about an hour for alternatives to Android. The impetus came from trying to transfer a video from my phone to my Ubuntu 20.04 computer. I had to upload it to Google, archive it, and then download it. I could not get a simple usb cable transfer to work. I find that abusive. The alternatives that I found are either out-of-date or not verified to work on my phone. I can only hope that a viable alternative phone OS will present itself.

And APPLE has been doing the same thing for years .....
 

Danny101

Posts: 1,865   +797
I don't mind a cohesion to standards to Android across all disparate devices. But at the same time, if I want to install an alternative, don't block me. The best of both worlds.
 

ron baer

Posts: 34   +11
Hmm, I'm in 2 minds reading this. Whilst I would never feel an ounce of empathy for Google nor ever support their oft-slimy business practices, I can't help but think back to the earlier days of Android where every manufacturer used their own heavily modified and excessively skinned versions of the OS, resulting in a hugely fragmented and un-cohesive ecosystem. In that sense, having all of the OEMs on the same page and using the same 'base' version of Android is kinda maybe not an entirely bad thing?

At the same time though I can obviously see how forcing everyone to not sell devices with any modifications to Android could stifle competition and innovation. Particularly on non-smartphone devices like watches and TVs I really don't see the advantage in locking it down like this. I'm just not sure that out of all the potential bases for anti-trust lawsuits against Google and all of the shitty things they do that this one is very high up the list of importance...
old android was the best android. it made it a better selling point for the OEM's to make a better UI over the clean stock one for people who wanted it but also allowed for powerusers to basically do whatever they wanted, which as one, I loved sideloading apps and unlocking full power of the devices even if there was a risk of bricking it since most bricking was soft and recoverable other than the loss of data. now a days all they are doing is shoving people into lacluster devices that are taking away features that people want, take in point Linus from LTT and the headphone jack
 

Norsiiii

Posts: 85   +110
old android was the best android. it made it a better selling point for the OEM's to make a better UI over the clean stock one for people who wanted it but also allowed for powerusers to basically do whatever they wanted, which as one, I loved sideloading apps and unlocking full power of the devices even if there was a risk of bricking it since most bricking was soft and recoverable other than the loss of data. now a days all they are doing is shoving people into lacluster devices that are taking away features that people want, take in point Linus from LTT and the headphone jack
The only reason why skinned UIs were (sometimes) good (HTC Sense sure wasn't, that crap was heaaaavy on system resources) was because stock Android UI and features were absolute trash up until they started improving things a bit with ICS.

I did plenty of rooting and ROM flashing back in the day, but in hindsight the ridiculous thing about it all is that at least part of the justification was to get rid of the bloated skinned OEM ROMs, but then most people would simply end up gravitating toward custom skinned ROMs anyway because the vanilla/vanilla+ ones were just so damned bleh. E.g. the most popular ROMs for HTCs were usually just tuned versions of the OEM HTC Sense ROMs anyway.

The point of this all is to say that people like a clean and comfy UI. Android never used to have it stock, hence why OEMs needed to skin. The result of that though was that the ecosystem was .... well.... not really an ecosystem at all, because they were all completely different. Today though, with the total 180 that Android's UI has done since the early days, there's just no justification for it