Google's products assist users and don't hamstring them, tech giant tells Competition Commission

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Google told the Competition Commission that its services were designed for optimum ease of use by users.
Google told the Competition Commission that its services were designed for optimum ease of use by users.
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  • Google made a submission on Wednesday to the Competition Commission's inquiry into online platforms.
  • Google South Africa head Alistair Mokoena told the commission that the company generates revenue primarily from online advertising.
  • Google Play head Tia Arzu said its service gives developers access to over 200 million people worldwide and more than 3 billion devices.


Tech giant, Google, told the Competition Commission that its services were designed for optimum ease of use by users, small business and application developers and that the seamless interface of its products should not be construed as anti-competitive behaviour.

Google made a submission to the Competition Commission on Wednesday evening in an inquiry into online platforms and their consistency with competitive business practice in South Africa.

The hearings come at a time when tech companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter face growing scrutiny from the governments of the world for their business practices, including the buying up of small tech companies.

Google is also embroiled in a fight with the European Union over a $5.1 billion fine imposed by the regional economic bloc in 2018 over the view the EU held that Google's operating system Android used its dominance to undermine the growth of competitors.

Google South Africa head Alistair Mokoena told the commission that the company generates revenue primarily from online advertising and that the group had a $1 billion investment in Sub Saharan Africa through enterprise support, access to data and connectivity.

Mokoena said over 5 years, Google planned to train 10 million Africans in digital skills, with four million already in training. "Setting up a Google My Business accounts allows a business to become more easily searchable through Google Maps," said Mokoena.

Among the examples of small, micro and medium enterprises [SMMEs] assisted by Google's business tools, Mokoena mentioned entrepreneur, Abigail Mbalo, who founded 4Roomed Ekasi Culture as an example of a business supported with the tech giant's small business support products, including a free listing on Google My Business.

"Google assists SMMEs with expanding their customer base and with adapting to the consumer pattern of seeking products online, and we saw this in the pandemic. We have spent $500 000 in a grant to youth empowerment services through a placement program 165 000 young black South Africans," Mokoena said.

He said Google Career also provided support to young Africans and a thousand scholarships have been given to young Africans with digital skills. He said the Google Play Academy gives free skills and learning platforms.

Google Play head Tia Arzu said its service gives developers access to over 200 million people worldwide and more than 3 billion devices.

"Android is free, and developers pay nothing to use Android and Play to develop and distribute their apps. 97% of the apps on Play are free to users and developers are not subject to fees if they sell their apps," said Arzu.

Arzu said Google Play's app store ecosystem has grown considerably in recent years, giving application developers access to a large market without exorbitant fees in a process that is easy to use to develop and distribute an application.

"In addition to app development and optimisation tools, there are tools for app integrity, security and guides from technical support to help developers with their needs. We have Play Academy and Google for Start-Ups," Arzu said.

Android head Tristan Ostrowski said concurrent app distribution is common even for applications that are present on the Google Play app store.

"Users are always free to use alternatives on Android devices. They can access many other competing app stores. Developers on Play are not prohibited in anyway, from distributing these apps on other websites and platforms," said Ostrowski.

Hearing chair James Hodge said asked Google how they were competing with Apple.

"At Google we make switching easy and seamless. It is not the case that they will be switching willy-nilly, but when their device is aged out and they're ready for a new one, there is an ease of portability when users are making the switch decision," Ostrowski replied.

Ostrowski said Google tries its best to make it easier for developers switch to the Google Play app store through competitive services that compare to what Apple has.

Hodge pointed out that Android has deals with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and these have been the subject of cases in the European Union and the United States over contentious issues including the bundling of Google Search and Google Chrome.

"We want to be consistent with what users expect and have their baseline expectations met, even if those baseline expectations are made at the market, including that a search engine be available," Ostrowski said.

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