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CCI researchers trigger probe into Google’s alleged bid to kill competition in India

The search engine behemoth Google is facing full-blown investigation in India for alleged abuse of its Android platform to outdo its competition.

In April this year, in a prima facie finding, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) has said that Google appears to reduce the ability of device manufacturers to opt for alternate versions of its Android mobile operating system.

It further orders a wider probe against the search engine giant and asked the DG to complete the investigation and submit the investigation report within five months. All thanks to three young researchers (two research associates and one law student)- Umar Javeed, Sukarma Thapar and Aaqib Javeed at CCI.

They found Google being involved in alleged anti-competitive practices and complained it to the watchdog.

In a complaint, last year, they alleged inter alia abuse of dominant positions by Google in the mobile operating system related markets in contravention of the provisions of Section 4 of the Act.

They being smartphone users, study the market behavior of Google and its varied products and found that they were available through Google Mobile Service (GMS) and cannot be downloaded separately by device manufacturers.

As per complainants depending upon which “Android” device OEMs/device manufacturers want to offer, they have to sign one or more agreements.

Google has engaged in different kinds of anti-competitive practices, either in the market in which they are dominant or in separate markets, with the aim of cementing Google’s dominant position in Online General Web Search Services and Online Video Hosting Platform, they added.

Google reportedly dominates Indian Android market with over 90% market share. Based on public sources, the researchers also alleged that Google is dominant in the Online Video Hosting Platform market in India with YouTube holding a market share of 80%.

Meanwhile, many people questioned their association with the watchdog leading to a complaint against Google.

I believe that Google’s practices through Android comes in the way of innovation by other players in online platforms and also restricts consumers choice of mobile apps and services, said Javeed in a Linkedin post last week.

Entrackr tried to reach to all three researchers for more on their journey, but despite repeated attempts, they did not respond to our queries.

The CCI has not yet made any comment on the development.

However, Google in its submission said Android users have considerable freedom to customize their phones and to install apps that compete with Google, as per CCI order. It also said that it would work with the watchdog to demonstrate how Android has led to more competition and innovation, not less.

Last year in an almost similar case in July, the European Commission (EU) had imposed a $5 billion fine on Google for violating anti-trust laws. In this case, also, three informants had complained against Google.

In India, the penalty amount has not been defined, if Google found abusing its dominant position, can face up to 10% of the relevant turnover of an entity in the last three fiscals. In February 2018, CCI had imposed a fine of Rs 136 crore on Google for unfair business practices in the Indian market for an online search.

This will certainly caution Google from indulging in such alleged behavior. At the same time, the courage shown by the three CCI researchers to come out against the company of Google stature is commendable.

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