Competition Commission of India (CCI) has ordered an investigation into Alphabet-owned Google's alleged abuse of its Android operating system's dominant position in the country's smart TV market. According to media reports, the probe has been ordered on a complaint filed by lawyers Kshitiz Arya and Purushottam Anand.
CCI, which began looking into the case last year, said its initial review found Google had breached certain anti-competitive laws. Based on information available and submissions made by Google, the CCI said it was convinced that a case is made out for directing an investigation.
The CCI order said Google occupied the "most significant" position in the relevant market of smart TVs, and the initial probe had shown that the US firm curbed the ability of device-makers to sell devices operating on alternative versions of Android.
According to the informants, Google has market share of over 75% in the smart TV device market. The Informants have also averred that 6 out of the top 10 smart TV OEMs have signed up with Android TV and thereby, Google has effectively established its dominance in the market for licensable operating systems for smart televisions.
The Informants have further averred that Google is dominant in the market for app stores for smart TV device operating systems also, as practically all Android TVs come installed with Google’s proprietary app store i.e. Play Store.
"The Commission is of the prima facie opinion that by making pre-installation of Google’s proprietary apps (particularly Play Store) conditional upon signing of Android Compatibility Commitments (ACC) for all android devices manufactured/distributed/marketed by device manufacturers, Google has reduced the ability and incentive of device manufacturers to develop and sell devices operating on alternative versions of Android i.e. Android forks, and thereby limited technical or scientific development relating to goods or services to the prejudice of consumers in contravention of Section 4(2)(b) of the Act," CCI said in its order.
"Further, ACC prevents OEMs from manufacturing/ distributing/ selling any other device which operate on a competing forked Android operating system. Therefore, given the dominance of Google in the relevant markets and pronounced network effects, by virtue of this restriction, developers of such forked Android operating system are denied market access resulting in violation of Section 4(2)(c) of the Act."
Denying any wrongdoing, Google issued a statement saying that the emerging smart TV sector in India was thriving in part due to Google's free licensing model. Android TV, it said, competes with several well-established TV operating systems. "We are confident that our smart TV licensing practices are in compliance with all applicable competition laws," a company spokesperson has been quoted as saying.
This will be the third antitrust investigation against Google. The tech giant's Google Pay and Google Play Store services are already facing probe for alleged abuse of dominant position.
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