Only a couple of weeks after the South Korean government passed a bill that will force Google (and Apple) to allow app developers to receive payments via third-party systems, the country’s regulator has dealt another huge blow to the Mountain View company. The Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) has announced that it’s fining Google’s parent company Alphabet the modest sum of $177 million for abusing its dominance in the smartphone OS market.
As Reuters reports, the 207 billion won ($176.64 million) fine is potentially the ninth biggest handed out by the Korean regulator. The punishment is due to contracts Google had OEMs sign that prohibited them from launching phones with forked versions of Android. The Korean regulator says (report in Korean) that the “anti-fragmentation agreement (AFA)” gave Google an anti-competitive advantage and ensured its continued dominance in the mobile OS market. Back into 2013, Samsung was apparently forced to go back on its plans to launch a smartwatch with a customized version of Android due to Google’s AFA.
The ruling, which Google says it will appeal against, would forbid any similar agreements from being signed in the future and allow device makers to release phones and tablets with modified versions of Android that aren’t tied to Google’s services.
For Google, the timing couldn’t be worse. South Korea’s “anti-Google law” has just come into effect, meaning app developers don’t have to rely on the Play Store for payments and therefore won’t have to give Google the usual 30% cut. After numerous antitrust investigations and fines in various regions already, the company will be bracing itself for yet more regulatory heat in the coming months — it’s not a good time to work in Alphabet’s legal team, that’s for sure.