India opens antitrust investigation into Google over its smart TV dominance
After reviewing a case filed by two lawyers against Google’s anti-competitive practices in the smart TV segment, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) has now ordered an investigation into the matter. While Google has denied any wrongdoing, the antitrust watchdog is “convinced that a case is made out for directing an investigation,” based on its initial review.
In its order, the CCI states: “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 order further adds that the Android Compatibility Commitments prevent smart TV OEMs from manufacturing, distributing, or selling any other device that runs a competing forked Android operating system. This denies developers of such forked Android operating systems market access, “resulting in violation of Section 4(2)(c) of the Act.” The Commission has also found that Google requires OEMs to pre-install its “must-have” apps, leaving them with no choice to pick alternatives. This “amounts to imposition of unfair condition on the smart TV device manufacturers,” which is in contravention of Section 4(2)(a)(i) of the Competition Act.
Additionally, the order states that the CCI’s initial investigation has led it to believe that Google may have leveraged its app store dominance to promote its services, like YouTube, on smart TVs. This is in contravention of Section 4(2)(e) of the Act, and all the aspects above “warrant a detailed investigation.”
In response to the order (via TechCrunch), a Google spokesperson said, “We are confident that our smart TV licensing practices are in compliance with all applicable competition laws.”
The CCI’s investigation into the matter will likely take months, if not years. We’ll update this post as soon as we learn more. It’s worth noting that the CCI is also investigating Google Play and Google Pay for market dominance in India.