CCI orders probe into Google’s dominance in smart TV market

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NEW DELHI :

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has ordered further investigation into the allegations that Google Inc. is abusing its dominant position with Android in India’s television market.

In an order dated 22 June, CCI said it found Google “prima facie” in violation of India’s antitrust regulations and asked its director general (DG) to further investigate the matter.

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The complaint filed by antitrust lawyers Kshitiz Arya and Purushottam Anand in May last year alleges that Google bars any company that acquired the licence 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 is televisions or phones on any forked version of Android,” a person involved in the matter told Mint in October.

“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 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.

CCI considered responses from Google and Chinese electronics giant Xiaomi, which has been named in the case, in October, as well as the complainants, and decided that the issue warrants further investigation.

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The DG is CCI’s fact-finding body and will come up with a report on whether there is a contravention of India’s antitrust law, said a competition law expert from a top law firm in India, who requested anonymity. CCI will then seek responses from the parties involved before coming to a final decision.

The tech giant had contended that competition in the smart TV segment is driven by access to over-the-top content, which is possible through various other devices such as set-top boxes and streaming sticks, which puts Google in a “fiercely competitive smart TV sector against multiple well-resourced and established players”. “The emerging smart TV sector in India is thriving, in part, due to Google’s free licensing model and Android TV competes with many TV OSs such as FireOS, Tizen, and WebOS. We are confident that our smart TV licensing practices are in compliance with all laws,” a Google spokesperson said.

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