South Korea to fine Google USD177M for forcing software on devices

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (AP) — South Korea’s competition watchdog plans to fine Google at least KRW207.4 billion (USD177 million) for allegedly blocking smartphone makers like Samsung from using other operating systems, in what would be one of the country’s biggest antitrust penalties ever.

Google said it plans to challenge the fine. It has accused South Korean authorities of disregarding how its software policy benefits hardware partners and consumers.

Yesterday’s announcement came as South Korea also began enforcing a revised telecommunications law that prohibits app market operators like Google and Apple from requiring smartphone users to pay with their in-app purchasing systems.

It is the first nation to adopt such regulations.

South Korea has always closely scrutinised how foreign technology companies behave in its market.

Much of the focus in recent years has been on Google and Apple as officials vowed to prevent them from abusing their dominant market positions in mobile internet.

Chairwoman of South Korea’s Fair Trade Commission Joh Sung-wook said Google has hampered competition since 2011 by obligating its electronics partners to sign “anti-fragmentation” agreements.

This has prevented the companies from installing modified versions of Google’s operating systems on devices like smartphones and smartwatches. That gave Google an easy way to cement its leadership in mobile software and app markets.

Google’s office in Kirkland, Washington. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG