1. Business
February 10, 2022

Google sues South Korea regulators in Android anti-trust wrangle

Google is suing South Korea’s regulator to reverse a fine received for forcing phone manufacturers to use its Android OS.

By Giacomo Lee

Google is suing South Korea’s competition regulator in an attempt to reverse the fine it received last year for forcing Korean phone manufacturers to use its Android operating system.

Google filed a lawsuit on January 24 to annul the fine of 207.4 billion won ($173m) imposed in September by the Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC), according to a report on Tuesday from Korean news agency Yonhap.

The Mountain View giant had already appealed the fine, one of the biggest ever handed out by the KFTC, before the Seoul High Court, which will begin to settle the appeal on February 25.

The KFTC’s fine concerned anti-fragmentation agreements (AFA) which Google had South Korean manufacturers like Samsung sign, preventing them from making changes to the Android OS. Its ruling prohibited the US goliath from forcing manufacturers to sign these AFAs, with a requirement to modify existing agreements.

The 2021 ruling came amid a wider regulatory crackdown on tech giants: As a recent GlobalData report notes, regulators around the world are targeting Big Tech firms on issues such as antitrust, data privacy, online harm, tax avoidance and misinformation.

Korea has led the way on this front, becoming the first country to legislate against the monopolies held by Google and Apple in downloading mobile applications to their respective mobile operating systems. The country’s Telecommunications Business Act from September prevents Apple and Google from charging software developers commission on in-app purchases.

On the Android anti-trust appeal, Google is reported by Yonhap to have said Android’s compatibility program has promoted better hardware and software innovation, and brought success to Korean OEMs and developers, leading to “greater choice, quality and better user experience for Korean consumers.”

The KFTC’s decision “ignores these benefits and will undermine the advantages enjoyed by consumers,” Google said.

Google has long argued that its AFAs are necessary to ensure that apps work across more Android phones.

Verdict reached out to Google for comment prior to publication of this piece.