* Google faces fourth major antitrust challenge in India
* Case alleges Google abusing position in smart TVs market
* India watchdog started probing case in June-source
* Google already under fire in India over dispute with
NEW DELHI, Oct 7 (Reuters) - Alphabet Inc's Google
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 television market, a source and two
lawyers involved in the case told Reuters.
The case is Google's fourth major antitrust challenge in
India, one of its key markets where it is currently facing
public criticism from local startups for enforcing certain
policies and company charges they contend hurt their growth.
It also comes as Google faces new antitrust challenges in
the United States, and a potential antitrust probe in China that
is set to look into how it allegedly uses its dominance of its
Android mobile operating system to stifle competition. Google
has denied any wrongdoing.
The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has since June
been looking into allegations that Google engages in
anti-competitive practices by creating barriers for firms
wanting to use or develop modified versions of Android for smart
TVs, such as Amazon Fire TV's operating system,
according to the source, who has direct knowledge of the case.
The case has been filed by two Indian antitrust lawyers,
Kshitiz Arya and Purushottam Anand. They both confirmed the case
filing against Google for alleged abuse in the smart television
market, but declined to comment further.
The source said the CCI had directed Google to submit its
written responses to the allegations and that the company has
sought more time.
A Google spokesman declined comment, since the case with the
antitrust body was pending. Amazon and the CCI did not respond
to requests for comment.
Unlike Indian court cases, filings and details of cases
reviewed by the CCI are not disclosed publicly.
The antitrust watchdog could order a wider investigation
against Google if it finds merit in the allegations, or throw
out the case completely.
Smart TVs, or WiFi-enabled TVs with apps for streaming
services like Netflix and YouTube, have become increasingly
popular in India.
Data from Counterpoint Research shows 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 powers
nearly 99% of India's half a billion smartphone user base.
The latest case alleges that Google's agreements with
companies such as Xiaomi and TV manufacturer TCL India
effectively stop them from using both the Android system and a
modified version of it on different devices they make, according
to the source.
For example, if a company sells smartphones based on
Google's Android, it cannot sell smart TVs running on competing
platforms like the Amazon Fire TV system, according to the case
against the Mountain View, California-based company, the source
And in reverse, if a company's smart TV is using Amazon's
Fire operating system, then that company is restricted from
offering Google's popular Play Store or the Google maps app on
Xiaomi India and TCL India, which is part of China's TCL
Technology Group Corp, are both party to the case
along with Google. Xiaomi did not respond to requests for
comment while TCL declined to comment.
In 2018, the CCI fined Google 1.36 billion rupees($18.5
million) for "search bias," but a company appeal against that is
pending. The CCI last year also started probing Google for
allegedly misusing its dominant position to reduce the ability
of smartphone makers to opt for alternate versions of its
Earlier this year, the CCI started reviewing a case alleging
that Google abuses its market position to unfairly promote its
mobile payments app in the country.
(Reporting by Aditi Shah and Aditya Kalra in New Delhi; Editing
by Euan Rocha and Raju Gopalakrishnan)