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Competition watchdog orders investigation into Google’s Android TV business in India

The commission has also directed the Director General to complete and submit the investigation report in 60 days in the order dated June 22, 2021.

June 22, 2021 / 09:14 PM IST
Alphabet Workers Union was formed in January 2021. It is open to all employees, contract workers and temporary workers of Alphabet - the parent company of Google - in the US and Canada. (Image: Reuters)

Alphabet Workers Union was formed in January 2021. It is open to all employees, contract workers and temporary workers of Alphabet - the parent company of Google - in the US and Canada. (Image: Reuters)

Competition Commission of India (CCI) on June 22 ordered investigation into Google’s Android TV business in the country for abuse of dominance.

The commission has also directed the Director General to complete and submit the investigation report in 60 days in the order dated June 22, 2021.

The case was filed by two Indian antitrust lawyers Kshitiz Arya and Purushottam Anand against Google, and smart TV players Xiaomi Technology India Pvt. Ltd. & TCL India Holdings Pvt. Ltd.

In their petition, they argued that Google is abusing its dominant position in the licensable operating system (OS) for smart TVs in the country. According to them, Google accounts for over 75 percent of the market share in this said space and has forced the OEMs to sign contracts that imposes various restrictions on them by abusing their dominant position the market.

Google's dominance in smart TV market

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Smart TVs come pre-installed with popular applications such Netflix, Amazon Prime and YouTube. However it is impossible for the TV manufacturers to offer entire suite of applications given the restriction disk space in Smart TV hardware.

“New apps are routinely launched by content providers to attract users. Therefore, it is critical for the OEMs to offer an app store along with smart TV to meet the dynamic needs of the users,” the commission noted in its order.

Hence, app stores are necessary to give users the option to view more than the popular streams that come pre-installed. Players like Android, and Amazon’s Fire are used by OEMs to give that option to users. Samsung’s Tizen and LG’s WebOS, which are two large smart TV players, are yet to license the product in the market.

In this context, Android TV accounts for about 90 percent with Xiaomi (37%), Sony (7%), TCL (11%) and 35% of the other brands use Android for their smart TVs. Only 10 percent of the brands use other OS like Fire.

The commission in its order noted that even if LG and Samsung were to license their OS, market share will be 65% for Android TV.

Google's agreement with OEMs

Another issue is the two agreements OEMs have to sign, Television App Distribution Agreement (TADA) and Android Compatibility Commitment (ACC), which the commission in the prima facie has found as anti-competitive. “…by making pre-installation of Google’s proprietary apps (particularly Play Store) conditional upon signing of ACC 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,” the order said.

“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 (competition) act,” the order stated.
Swathi Moorthy
first published: Jun 22, 2021 09:14 pm

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