Google’s New Antitrust Challenge in India Over Smart TV Market Abuses

The world’s leading tech giant, Alphabet Inc.’s Google, is now facing another antitrust case in India over the allegation that the company misused its market power to curb competition in its major domain of Android operating system in the smart television (TV). As sources told Reuters, the United States (U.S.) based tech giant has been facing several criticisms from local startups in India, arguing that Google had indulged in subverting market regulations that hurt the growth of the small local businesses.

This is Google’s fourth major antitrust challenge in India in addition to the existing antitrust probes against the company in the U.S. for various issues related to the misuse of its market power. The latest antitrust probe in India was filed by two Indian antitrust lawyers, Kshitiz Arya and Purushottam Anand, who claimed that Google abused its position in the smart TV market.

The Competition Commission of India (CCI), which has been investigating several anti-competition cases against the tech giant, had directed Google to submit its written responses to the allegations. Denying the allegation and any wrongdoing, the company earlier said that it needed more time for its responses.

Google’s Smart TV Market Abuse in India

Since June, the Indian regulatory agency CCI has been looking into allegations that Google was indulged in anti-competitive practices, which prevented small firms to use or develop modified versions of Android for smart TVs such as Amazon Fire TV’s operating system. As sources explained that Google dictated terms for using Android technologies in smart TV manufacturing and set restrictions to limit market competition from rivals.

Demands for smart TVs or Wi-Fi enabled TVs, equipped with multiple streaming apps such as Netflix and YouTube, have recently become increasingly growing in India. As per data from Counterpoint Research, around 8 million smart TV sets were sold in India in 2019 and three in five smart TVs sold in India are based on Google’s Android system.

Google, which also powers its Android operating systems in nearly 99% of India’s half a billion-smartphone user base, has been criticized for curbing market regulations and creating barriers for small firms to access technologies.

Existing Antitrust Cases Against Google

In 2018, the CCI slapped Google 1.36 billion rupees ($18.5 million) for manipulating the search engine, which the agency called it “search bias,” though the case is still pending. The regulatory agency began its second antitrust probe against Google last year after it sought allegations that the company misused its dominant market position to reduce the ability of smartphone manufacturers to develop or use alternate versions of the Android system.

This year, the CCI started another probe alleging that the company used its position to unfairly promote its mobile payments app, Google Pay, in the country. The latest case alleged that Xiaomi and TV manufacturer TCL India, after entering agreements with Google, were forced and prevented from using both the Android system and a modified version of it on their own different devices.

In contrast to the Indian court system, the CCI’s findings of the cases are not publicly disclosed and the agency could further extend its investigations against the tech giant if it finds merit in these allegations or reject the case totally.