Google’s been facing antitrust cases left, right, and center in nearly all its major global markets, and it looks like those legal woes aren’t going away anytime soon. While the search giant’s Indian arm has already been contesting a couple of existing anti-competitive lawsuits (it was even fined $21 million in one of them), a new case alleges similar behavior in the smart TV market and makes some serious accusations about Google abusing its dominance.
Some sources directly involved in the case told Reuters that the Competition Commission of India (CCI), a local antitrust watchdog, has been looking into allegations made in a June case filed collectively by Xiaomi and TCL India. The report notes that Google bars TV makers from using a rival smart TV platform, such as Fire TV OS if that company’s smartphones run Google’s version of Android. While that sounds nothing short of bullying, it doesn’t end there. If a company opts for Amazon’s TV OS over Android TV, its smartphones would lose access to the Play Store and Google Maps.
This basically locks the companies involved in making both smart TVs and smartphones inside a walled garden that Google doesn’t want to let go of. With these domineering terms, Google also gets to increase its share of the smart TV market, where it already dominates, though not to the extent of India’s smartphone market (which it has captured almost entirely). The only Fire TV-powered non-Amazon product in India is a cheap 43-inch set from a little-known local brand, while nearly all new offerings run Android TV.
The CCI has currently only sought written response from Google on these allegations, and it isn’t actively probing the matter just yet. The government body may choose to launch an investigation later if it feels the need or may even drop the case entirely, the report notes. Things could go either way, and we’ll learn how things are ending up for sure when one of the involved parties releases an official statement.
Google is separately under fire in India for upsetting the local startup community with its decision to enforce the 30% transaction fee on in-app purchases. This led to widespread cries for an alternative to the Play Store specifically for the local app ecosystem, resulting in Google postponing the implementation until 2022.