The CCI fined Google ₹1337.6 crore and ₹936 crore for abusing dominance with its Android operating system and the Play Store last month. The third case deals with the company’s AndroidTV operating system, and the contracts Google has with companies in that ecosystem.
The complaint was filed by antitrust lawyers Kshitiz Arya and Purushottam Anand in May 2020, and the CCI found prima facie evidence of violation of India’s antitrust regulations in June last year. It ordered the director general to further investigate the matter and present a report on it. The DG is CCI’s fact-finding body and conducts inquiries into contraventions of competition law. The CCI seeks responses from involved parties based on the DG’s report, before passing judgment on a case.
The person cited above noted that while the investigation for the Play Store case seems to have been fast-tracked, the one into the AndroidTV ecosystem will take at least a year more. The person noted that the ₹1,337.6 crore fine against Google came after a nearly four-year-long investigation. That case was first brought to the CCI back in 2018. “The investigation period before the DG varies from case to case and also depends upon the complexity of the case, the data and witnesses to be examined by the DG. It is not unusual for DG to take 1-2 years to complete the investigation," said Anu Monga, partner, AnantLaw.
To be sure, Mint reported, the CCI may not be in a position to pass judgments on cases right now anyway. Ashok Kumar Gupta vacated the chairman’s office on 25 October, shortly after the second fine levied on Google, having completed his four-year term in the office.
Without him, the Commission has two whole-time members, whereas it needs the chairperson and two members to have sufficient quorum for key decisions. However, Monga said that lack of a full member panel doesn’t affect DG investigations.
Like the two earlier cases, the AndroidTV case also alleges that Google’s business practices violated India’s competition laws. For instance, the original complaint alleged that Google bars any company that acquires the licence for the AndroidTV platform from working with its competitors.
The competition regulator also considered responses from Chinese consumer electronics firm Xiaomi, which sells AndroidTV-based televisions in India, and was named in the case. Monga added that unless the CCI clubs the cases by way of an order, it will examine the AndroidTV case on its own merit.
The tech giant argued that competition in the smart TV segment is driven by access to over-the-top (OTT) content, which puts set-top boxes and streaming sticks in competition with AndroidTV. Google claimed that it was in competition with other ecosystems like Amazon’s FireOS, Samsung’s Tizen and LG’s WebOS. “We are confident that our smart TV licensing practices are in compliance with all laws,“ a Google spokesperson said in June last year. The CCI and Google did not comment on this story.