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The competition commission of India (CCI) has ordered an investigation into allegations that Google has abused its dominant position with Android in India’s smart television market.
In an order dated June 22, CCI said it prima facie opines that certain agreements between Google and smart TV manufacturers amounted to abuse of dominant position by Google.
The watchdog held that Google appears to be in violation of the country’s antitrust regulations and has asked its director general to further investigate into the matter and submit a report within 60 days.
The commission started looking into the case last year after antitrust lawyers Kshitiz Arya and Purushottam Anand alleged that Google bars companies that acquired the license for its Android TV platform from working with its competitors.
They averred that 6 out of the top 10 smart TV manufacturers have signed up with Android TV and Google has effectively established its dominance in the market for licensable operating systems for smart televisions.
They further noted that Google is dominant in the market for app stores for smart TV device operating systems, as all Android TVs come installed with Google’s Play Store.
Based on a preliminary estimates of the market share of different licensable smart TV OS, CCI found the market share of Android TV OS is almost 90%. The Commission noted that Android TV is now used in 7 out of 10 most-sold smart TV sets.
“The profound network effects operating in the relevant markets which attract more and more users, app developers and OEMs result in entry barriers for the competitors of Google,” CCI said.
“At this stage, these parameters are sufficient to indicate the extent of market power enjoyed by Google and accordingly the Commission is of the prima facie view that Google is dominant in the relevant market for licensable smart TV device operating systems in India.”
The commission further added that by making pre-installation of Google’s proprietary apps conditional upon signing of Android Compatibility Commitments (ACC) for 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.
In addition to this, ACC prevents OEMs from manufacturing/ distributing/ selling any other device which operate on a competing forked Android operating system.
The tech giant has denied any wrongdoing. Google, in a statement, said the emerging smart TV sector in India is thriving, due to its free licensing model and that the Android TV competes with well-established TV OS such as FireOS, Tizen, and WebOS.
“We are confident that our smart TV licensing practices are in compliance with all the applicable competition laws,” a Google spokesperson said.
While Google sought an opportunity for oral hearing through video conference to present its arguments, the Commission, is prima facie convinced that a case is made out for directing an investigation by the DG.