Google is facing a new case of antitrust abuse in the smart TV market in India

Google's Alphabet Inc is facing a new antitrust case in India

Google’s Alphabet Inc is facing a new antitrust case in India in which the U.S. tech giant is alleged to have abused its Android operating system’s position in the smart TV market.

NEW DELHI: Alphabet Inc.’s Google is facing a new antitrust case in India in which the U.S. tech giant is suspected to have abused its Android operating system’s role in the smart Television market, a source and two lawyers involved in the case told Reuters.

The case is Google’s fourth major anti-trust challenge in India, one of its main markets where it is currently facing public pressure from local startups for the enforcement of certain policies and business charges that they contend would harm their growth.

It also comes as Google faces new antitrust challenges in the United States and a possible anti-trust investigation in China that is likely to look into how it supposedly uses the domination of the Android mobile operating system to stifle competition. Google has denied any wrongdoing.

Since June, the Competition Commission of India ( CCI) has been investigating allegations that Google is engaging in anti-competitive practices by building barriers for organizations wanting to use or create modified versions of Android for smart TVs, such as Amazon Fire TV’s operating system, according to the source, that has direct knowledge of the case.

The case was brought by two Indian antitrust lawyers, Kshitiz Arya and Purushottam Anand. Both acknowledged the case filed against Google for alleged abuse of the smart television market but declined to confirm further.

The source claimed that the CCI had directed Google to submit its written replies to the allegations and that the company had sought more time.

Google’s spokesperson declined to comment since the case with the antitrust body was pending. Amazon and the CCI did not respond to requests for comments.

Unlike the case of the Indian court, the filings and information of the cases reviewed by the CCI are not publicly disclosed.

The antitrust watchdog could order a larger investigation against Google if it finds merit in the allegation, or throw out the case completely.

Smart TVs, or WiFi-enabled TVs with streaming apps like Netflix and YouTube, have become increasingly popular in India.

Data from Counterpoint Research reveals that 8 million smart TV sets were sold in India in 2019. Three in five smart TVs sold in India are based on Google’s Android system, which also controls nearly 99 per cent of India’s half a billion smartphone user base.

The latest case alleges that Google’s deals with companies such as Xiaomi and TV manufacturer TCL India essentially stop them from using both the Android system and the modified version of it on the multiple devices they make, according to the source.

For example, if a company sells smartphones based on Google’s Android, it can not sell smart TVs running on rival platforms like the Amazon Fire TV system, according to Mountain View, a California-based company, the source said.

And on the other hand, if a company’s smart TV uses Amazon’s Fire operating system, the company is prevented from offering the popular Google Play Store or Google Maps app on its smartphones.

Xiaomi India and TCL India, part of China’s TCL Technology Group Corp, are both party leaders to the case, along with Google. Xiaomi did not respond to requests for comments while TCL declined to comment.

In 2018, the CCI fined Google 1,36 billion rupees ($18,5 million) for “search bias,” but a corporation appealed against it. Last year, the CCI also began to test Google for allegedly misusing its dominant position to reduce the ability of smartphone makers to opt for alternative versions of its Android system.

Earlier this year, the CCI began reviewing a case alleging that Google had manipulated its market power to unfairly promote its mobile payment app in the country.