Boardroom explains everything you need to know about Korean authorities cracking down on Google once again over anti-competitive business practices.
On Tuesday, authorities in South Korea dropped the hammer on one of the planet’s largest tech companies. After the Korea Fair Trade Commission — the country’s regulatory body on antitrust matters — ruled that Google improperly blocked user access to games on the Korea-based ONE Store mobile app market, the Alphabet-owned mega-company was fined $31.9 million (₩42.1 billion).
The method of transgression? Preventing game developers from publishing their works to the platform in the first place. Notably, ONE Store is a direct competitor to the Google Play Store in the region.
As a company spokesperson said in a statement to several media outlets on the occasion, “We have cooperated diligently with the KFTC’s investigation and deliberation process for the past five years and believe that there has been no violation of the law. Google makes substantial investments in the success of developers, and we respectfully disagree with the KFTC’s conclusions. We will carefully review the final written decision once it’s shared with us to evaluate the next course of action.”
As TechCrunch notes, Google Play’s app store market share in South Korea was approximately 95% in 2018. Naturally, regulators are sensitive to antitrust concerns in any event considering such an asymmetric market, but it’s additionally worth noting that this isn’t the first Google South Korea regulatory row. The KFTC fined the company nearly $180 million as recently as 2021 over anti-competition concerns stemming from preventing rival smartphone manufacturers from releasing retail devices loaded with modified versions of the Android OS.
These latest developments exist against the backdrop of ongoing Google-centric regulatory challenges around the world. European Union authorities have asked similarly stern antitrust questions about Google Play, and earlier this year, the US Department of Justice and eight individual state governments filed a lawsuit against Google on grounds that the company was exploiting an illegal monopoly on digital advertising technology.