South Korea’s antitrust watchdog, the Korean Fair Trade Commission (KFTC), has fined Alphabet’s [GOOG:US] Google KRW42.1bn (USD32m) for allegedly abusing its dominant position in the app market to hurt a domestic competitor, as reported by Reuters on April 11. The KFTC stated that Google had asked some game developers, such as NCSOFT [036570:KS] and Netmarble [251270:KS], to release their new games exclusively on Google’s Play Store, in exchange for offering in-app exposure and further support for global expansion. The regulator claimed that Google’s actions were intended to hinder the growth of One Store, a Korean platform rival. Google, which controls roughly two-thirds of Korea’s mobile app market, denied the accusations of providing any benefits to developers who only released their apps on Google Play.
The KFTC viewed its action against Google as part of the government’s efforts to ensure fair markets. The watchdog revealed that Google began making conditional offers to game developers in June 2016, when One Store began operations in Korea, and continued doing so until April 2018. One Store’s market share dropped from a peak of 20% to as low as 5% in 2017 and 2018 as a result of Google’s measures. However, after KFTC’s intervention, One Store’s market share recovered to 15% in 2019. In September 2021, the KFTC imposed a fine of KRW207bn (USD176.6m) on Google for blocking customized versions of its Android operating system (OS), citing that Google abused its dominant market position and restricted competition in the mobile OS market.