The Washington Post

South Korea will fine Google $177 million

- — Aaron Gregg

South Korea’s antitrust watchdog will fine Google nearly $177 million for using its dominant market position to prohibit other companies from building out alternativ­es to its Android operating system.

The order Tuesday from the Korea Fair Trade Commission is the latest in regulatory efforts attempting to rein in the tech giant’s influence over consumer technology. It prohibits the company from requiring smartphone makers to sign “anti-fragmentat­ion” agreements when signing contracts with Google over app store licenses. Android is the world’s most popular mobile operating system, and the agreements are ostensibly meant to reduce software incompatib­ilities that could cause devices to malfunctio­n.

“We expect the latest measures will help set the stage for competitio­n to revive in the mobile OS and app markets. This is also expected to help the launch of innovative goods and services in smart device markets,” the commission said, according to a translatio­n of its comments published by the Yonhap News Agency.

The Android Compatibil­ity Program is a set of publicly available code designed to ensure that app developers can make devices that will work together. According to its website, the program encourages device makers to “consider licensing” Google’s mobile operating system, which enables access to its services such as Google Play, Google Maps, and Gmail. To use that operating system, device manufactur­ers have to set up a licensing arrangemen­t with Google.

A Google spokespers­on contends the program “has led to greater choice, quality and a better user experience for Korean consumers,” adding that Tuesday’s decision “ignores these benefits, and will undermine the advantages enjoyed by consumers.” The company plans to appeal.

Google has come under increasing scrutiny from regulators and lawmakers, who say its Android-related policies benefit its own apps and services at the expense of others, allowing it to use its preeminenc­e in one segment of the online ecosystem to dominate another.

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