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Google faces probe for misusing Android’s dominant position in Indian smart TV market

Written by Moulishree Srivastava Published on 

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Three out of five smart TVs sold in India are based on Google’s Android operating system.

Things are getting more complicated for Google in India, a key market for the company where it has committed to invest USD 10 billion over the next five years.

Amidst Google’s ongoing standoff with Indian tech startups over its dominance in the country’s mobile app ecosystem, the American tech giant has been slapped with a new antitrust case for the alleged abuse of its Android operating system’s (OS) dominant position in the smart television market.

Anti-trust lawyers Kshitiz Arya and Purushottam Anand had filed the complaint with Competition Commission of India (CCI) in June, a report by Reuters said.

Google doesn’t allow smart TV manufacturers with whom it has partnered with to adopt any forked or modified Android OS for any of their devices including TVs and phones. Forked Android refers to Android-based OS like Amazon’s Fire TV OS. This essentially means a company using the Android TV platform cannot opt for any other Android-based platform for either TVs or smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, and other devices.

The complaint alleges that this is an anti-competitive practice.

Furthermore, if a company manufactures Android-based smartphones, it cannot make smart TVs that run on competing platforms like Amazon Fire TV, according to the case, Reuters said. Similarly, if a company is using any other Android-based operating systems for its smart TV, then it can’t offer Google’s Play Store or its other apps such as Maps on its smartphones.

Sources claimed that Google is using Android’s dominance to create a monopoly in smart TV market as well. Xiaomi India and TCL India, are both party to the case, the report said.

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This is the fourth major anti-trust probe that the Mountain View, California-based firm is facing in India. In 2018, CCI had fined Google with USD 21 million for “search bias” and abusing its “dominant position” in online web search and online search advertising markets. For instance, CCI found Google deliberately directed flight-related queries towards its own specialized flight search page rather than to competing websites, which allowed it to pocket additional commission payments.

Google’s appeal against the decision is still pending. Last year, CCI had ordered a deeper investigation after it found Google to have misused its dominant position to reduce the “ability of device manufacturers to opt for alternate versions of its Android mobile operating system.”

Earlier this year, CCI started looking into a case, filed against Google in February, for misusing its market position to promote its payment app Google Pay.

The new anti-trust probe comes as Google faces new antitrust challenges in the United States, and a potential antitrust probe in China for allegedly using Android’s dominant position to crush its competition.

The Reuters report said CCI had directed Google to submit its written responses to the allegations and that the company has sought more time. Google can face a wider investigation if CCI finds merit in the allegations.

Over the last few years, demand for smart or WiFi-enabled TVs with apps for streaming services like Netflix and YouTube, have picked up in India. The Reuters report citing Counterpoint Research data said eight million smart TV sets were sold in India in 2019, and that three in five smart TVs sold in India are based on Google’s Android system. According to a recent report by Goldstein Research, the Indian smart TV market is expected to reach USD 20.4 billion by 2024.

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