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Competition Commission of India will seek comments from Google and other parties only after it launches a formal probe. Photo: Pradeep Gaur
Competition Commission of India will seek comments from Google and other parties only after it launches a formal probe. Photo: Pradeep Gaur

Google faces new antitrust case in India on smart TVs

  • This is the first time that Google has faced a case for dominance with AndroidTV in India

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) is examining a complaint that search giant Google abused its dominant market position in smart television operating systems, a person aware of the matter said.

Anti-trust lawyers Kshitiz Arya and Purushottam Anand filed the complaint with CCI in the first week of June.

“If a TV manufacturer intends to use Google’s operating system, you have to enter into certain agreements. These agreements prohibit you from manufacturing any other device, whether it is televisions, phones, etc., on any forked version of Android," the person said. Forked Android refers to operating systems based on Android, like Amazon’s Fire TV OS.

This means a company using the AndroidTV platform cannot just choose to make TVs on other Android-based platforms, but also has to make phones and other devices, on Google’s platform. The person said Google is using the dominance of Android to create a monopoly in smart TVs as well.

Chinese smartphone and TV maker Xiaomi, and TV maker TCL have also been named as parties in the case, since they also manufacture products on the Android platform. Google did not respond to an email while Xiaomi and TCL declined to comment.

Competition Commission of India will seek comments from Google and other parties only after it launches a formal probe.

“Competition Commission of India will have to examine three things on a prima facie basis to open an investigation. First is to examine whether smart TVs are a separate market distinguishable from regular TVs," said Abdullah Hussain, partner, L&L Partners.

“Second, it will have to examine the dominance of Google in this market, based on some reliable source for market share data. Finally, it will have to examine whether the exclusionary conduct complained of is accurate and if it is likely to have an adverse effect on competition in the market," he added.

This is the first time Google has faced a case for dominance with AndroidTV in India. CCI fined the company 1.36 billion in 2018 for abusing its dominance with Google Search.

The competition watchdog is investigating Google in two other cases—one involving dominance in smartphones, while the other is for using its market position to promote Google Pay over other apps. The case also comes in the backdrop of many Indian startups opposing Google’s Play Store policies and building their own mini-app stores.

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