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India Accuses Google of Unfair Market Practices

(Noted News) Google, the tech titan under Alphabet Inc, is facing an antitrust case in India that alleges they abused their Android operating system’s position in the smart TV market.

The Competition Commission of India (CCI), a branch of the Indian government responsible for maintaining fair market competition, has reportedly been investigating Google since June regarding alleged “anti-competitive practices” according to sources at Reuters.

The basis of the allegations is that Google, who owns the Android operating system that 3 in 5 smart TV’s in India run on, has been striking unfair deals with companies like Xiaomi and TV manufacturer TCL India that prevent them from using anything other than Google’s Android system. This means that if a company is selling something based on Google’s Android system like a phone or a tablet, they’re not allowed to sell any other device that uses another system, such as the Amazon Fire TV System.

It also means that if a company is already using another operating system, Google will not let that company use the Google Play Store or the Google Maps app. This has already prompted some frustrated companies into abandoning the popular Play Store altogether, like fantasy sports platform Dream11 who managed to get 100 million users without being in the popular app store.

Google has been facing massive backlash against tech startups and other firms in India who feel Google is stifling innovation and competition through their combined control of the Android operating system and the app store.

This is in fact the fourth antitrust case that the CCI has lodged against the California company. In 2018, the CCI fined Googled 1.36 billion rupees ($18.5 million) for search bias, something that is also becoming the subject of hot debate in the USA as the presidential election approaches. And in early 2020, the CCI began a case alleging that Google had been unfairly pushing its mobile payments app on Indian digital users.

The most recent case, which was confirmed to Reuters by 2 lawyers working on it, will only be the beginning of a wider investigation into Google should they find any wrong doings.

According to Counterpoint Research, more than 8 million smart TVs were purchased by Indians in 2019 alone, with the majority of them based on Google’s Android operating system. Of the smartphone owners in India, 99% have Androids, adding to Google’s power and the uneasiness among skeptics.

Bipin Preet Sing, founder and CEO of a payment service called MobiKwik, was briefly banned from the Play Store in May.

“There has to be stringent regulation in India, which asks tech conglomerates to operate with fairness and transparency while allowing for competition to thrive. No longer are they (Google) appealing to the good of any company… They can’t control the OS, app-distribution and launch their own apps. These need to be decoupled and all founders are looking at alternatives to list their apps.”

Google also laid out plans to force app sellers into a 30% commission of all transactions on the play store. This rule has always been in place, but is only now being enforced in India, making it impossible to circumvent. Murugavel Janakiraman, founder and CEO of matchmaking site Matrimony.com, lamented this move.

“They need to remove the 30% commission in India and stop forcing companies to use only their Play Store billing system. All we ask is for fair play. Today, startups are at the mercy of Google, where they can randomly remove any app from the Play Store.”

Harshil Mathur, CEO of payment platform Razorpay, is also opposed to Google’s monopolization of the digital realm.

“A 30% commission on in-app payments is exorbitant and could kill so many businesses in India. While an Indian app store is a logical alternative, India requires a broader policy framework to find a more permanent resolution.”

Google has denied the claims of any wrong doing, and has since deferred plans to enforce the fees to March 31, 2022, in an effort to be “mindful of local needs and concerns”.

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