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Google to be probed by CCI for anti-competitive practices in smart TV market

Google to be probed by CCI for anti-competitive practices in smart TV market
Photo Credit: Reuters
23 Jun, 2021

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has ordered an investigation into Google for alleged anti-competitive practices related to the American technology giant’s smart TV operating system (OS).  

The order, dated June 22, said the Android Compatibility Commitments (ACC) signed by smart TV device manufacturers for using the Android TV operating system developed by Google prevents them from manufacturing/distributing/ selling any other smart TV or mobile device which operates on a competing forked Android OS. Examples of forked Android OS include Fire OS developed by Amazon.

The report also noted that the agreement bundles Google’s Play Store with the Android TV OS and does not allow device manufacturers to have a say on the bundling.  

The investigation was initiated based on a complaint filed by Kshitiz Arya and Purushottam Anand. The report also says that Google violates Section 3 of the Competition Act as Google’s market position restricts developers from developing or licensing a competing forked Android OS.

“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,” CCI said in the report.  

In response to the complaint, Google was allowed to make submissions by CCI before the initiation of the investigation.  

Excerpts of Google’s submissions filed with the CCI in October 2020, February 2021 and April 2021 were included in the report. It said, “ACC requires that OEM partners observe a minimum level of compatibility for smart TV devices that run on Android TV which is claimed to have a strong pro-competitive rationale. Google claims that by requiring a minimum level of baseline compatibility, the ACC facilitates competition between Android TV and longer established players in the connected TV sector to the benefit of Indian consumers.”

In November 2020, CCI had initiated a separate investigation into the pre-installation of Google’s UPI based payment product Google Pay on smartphones and preference given to Google’s billing system for in-app purchases on Play Store.