The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has ordered further investigation into a case which alleges that tech giant Google was abusing its dominant position with Android in India’s television market. In an order dated June 19, the CCI said it found Google “prima facie” in violation of India’s antitrust regulations. The CCI directed its Director General (DG) to conduct further investigation into the matter.
“Google has also sought an opportunity for oral hearing (by video conference) for Google to present its arguments on the issues raised in the Information. However, the Commission, based on the information available on the record (including the submissions made by Google), is prima facie convinced that a case is made out for directing an investigation by the DG,” said the order.
The case was filed by antitrust lawyers Kshitiz Arya and Purushottam Anand around May last year and the CCI sought responses from Google and Chinese electronics giant Xiaomi, who had been named in the case, in October. The CCI then considered responses from the companies involved, and the complainants, deciding that the issue warrants further investigation.
According to a competition law expert from a top law firm in India, who requested anonymity, the DG is the fact-finding body of the CCI, which will now investigate the matter in detail and come up with a report on whether there is a contravention of India’s antitrust law. The CCI then seeks responses from the involved parties, which are taken into consideration before coming to a final decision. “Until it comes up with the final decision, there’s nothing else that has any sort of finality,” the lawyer added.
The complaint alleges that Google bars any company that acquired the license for its AndroidTV platform from working with its competitors. “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’s televisions, phones etc. on any forked version of Android,” a person involved in the matter told Mint in October.
The commission found that Google’s market share in the smart TV operating system ecosystem was over 65%, and combined with “profound network effects” could lead to entry carriers for competitors. The tech giant had also contended that competition in the smart TV segment is driven by access to over-the-top (OTT) content, which is possible through various other devices, like set-top-boxes and streaming sticks, which puts Google in a “fiercely competitive smart TV sector against multiple well-resourced and established players”.
“In this regard, the Commission notes that the allegations in the present matter pertain to commercial transaction between Google as a licensor of Android TV/app store and Smart TV OEMs as a licensee. Therefore, the relevant markets have been defined as market for licensable smart TV device operating systems in India and the market for app store for Android smart TV operating systems in India,” the order states.
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