Robust laws can control Big Tech
It is a legal obligation, not individual discretion, that prompts companies to take a different approach in Europe. For India, the fight in the Supreme Court is yet another reminder that a conversation is long overdue in Parliament
Tech giant Google is locked in a high-stakes legal battle with India’s fair-trade watchdog, the Competition Commission of India ( CCI) , after the latter slapped the company with over ₹2,200 crore in fines last year. The penalty concerned Google’s widely used Android operating system for smartphones, and the linked store through which people can buy or sell mobile apps; CCI found that the policies and conditions Google put in place in relation to both abused its dominant position, allowing the company to ostensibly gain an advantage by having its apps on Android phones sold by default, and prohibiting the use of other application marketplaces. On its part, Google flagged a whole host of potential implications, including security (it argues its strict control helps keep dodgy apps off the ecosystem) and industry growth.
This week, CCI contended in court that Google was following a different approach from what it does in Europe, where it has paid billions in euros in fines. The claim, and the judges’ poser to Google on whether it plans to follow an approach in India consistent with its conduct in Europe, brings to light an important question plaguing Big Tech: How are policy responses crafted in different jurisdictions, and to what effect? That Big Tech behaves differently in Europe is not unknown. Europe is regarded as the torchbearer of tech regulation and its Digital Markets Act, enacted last year, addresses the very issues at the heart of the Google versus CCI fight. The law forces companies with large backbone services, such as mobile operating systems, need to keep products open. In other words, it is a legal obligation, not individual discretion, that prompts companies to take a different approach in Europe. For India, the fight in the Supreme Court is yet another reminder that a conversation is long overdue in Parliament.