The investigation wing of the Competition Commission of India (CCI) is investigating Google and has asked for details of the agreement between smartphone makers and Alphabet’s Google. This comes in light of the antitrust regulator’s probe into the alleged misuse of market share by Android, the world’s leading mobile operating system that is partly developed by Google.
According to an ET report, the CCI director general has issued letters to leading smartphone manufacturers Samsung and Xiaomi, along with the likes of Lava and Karbonn, which once held decent market share in the Indian smartphone market. The CCI is seeking information on the terms and conditions companies agreed to when using Android for their smartphones. As of May 2019, Android OS claims more than 75% of the market share worldwide, followed by Apple’s iOS at 22.74%. In India, it has a 91.27% market share among all mobile operating systems, including feature phones.
Specifically, the CCI is investigating Google’s role in imposing restrictions on using Google apps and mobile services from April 2011. The CCI is also looking at the license fee paid to Google for using other Google mobile services on Android phones, without which users would not get access to the millions of apps and games from the Google Play Store.
Besides these details, the CCI has reportedly urged handset manufacturers to share information on yearly investments in research and development, maintenance of their proprietary app stores as in the case of Samsung or Xiaomi, as well as yearly revenue during the same period. The CCI has also launched an enquiry on whether such proprietary app stores from smartphone makers can be installed on devices from competing brands.
CCI’s probe on Google’s role in forcing manufacturers to sign up for the licensing Android began mid-April this year. But the company has had its share of legal troubles with India’s antitrust authority in the past too.
Google’s Tussles With CCI
Last year in February, the CCI had imposed a $21 Mn penalty on Google after a petition alleged search bias on the company’s part. The petition said Google is abusing the dominant position it has as a search engine through practices leading to search bias and manipulation from he the side of the search engine giant This decision had come out of a complaint filed in 2012.
Google was also asked to pay $5 Bn by EU regulators last year after it was found guilty of abusing its market dominance on three counts — integrating a search engine and Chrome browser within Android, blocking phone manufacturers from using forked versions of the open-source OS, having direct deals with certain OEMs and telcos to bundle Google apps with smartphones.
The CCI is also looking into the annual sale of mobile devices as per the OS — both for smartphones and tablets between 2011 and 2019. It has sought information on any kind of agreement which Google puts forward to the manufacturers regarding the software installed on the device.