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Innocent Admission

CCI orders antitrust probe against Google over smart TV market

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New Delhi, June 23, 2021 (Agency) The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has ordered an investigation into allegations that Google has abused the dominant position of Android in the country’s smart TV market.

According to the CCI’s order on Tuesday, the antitrust watchdog was of the prima facie view that Google is dominant in the market for licensable smart TV device operating systems in India.

“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 ACC (Android Compatibility Commitments) 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,” the watchdog said in its 24-page 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,” it added.

According to a TechCrunch report, the news comes hours after the European Union opened a formal antitrust investigation into allegations that Google abuses its leading role in the advertising-technology sector.

In its initial review, the Competition Commission of India, which began looking into these allegations last year, said Google had breached certain anti-competitive laws.

Google, which counts India as its largest market by users and last year committed to investing $10 billion in the country, denied any wrongdoing, the report said.

“We are confident that our smart TV licensing practices are in compliance with all applicable competition laws,” a company spokesperson said in a statement.

The CCI added that it found Google requiring television manufacturers pre-installing all its “must-have” apps and not having the ability to pick and choose from alternatives “amounts to imposition of unfair condition on the smart TV device manufacturers and thereby in contravention of Section 4(2)(a)(i) of the Act”.

“It also amounts to prima facie leveraging of Google’s dominance in Play Store to protect the relevant markets such as online video hosting services offered by YouTube, etc. in contravention of Section 4(2)(e) of the Act. All these aspects warrant a detailed investigation,” the competition regulator added.

About 8 million smart TV sets were sold in India in 2019, over 60 per cent of which were powered by Google’s Android operating system, the report said.

This order is the third ongoing antitrust case investigation that India has opened against the tech giant.

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