The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has sought from handset companies, the details of their agreements with Google or its group companies, following the European Union’s decision last year to penalise Google with a fine for abuse of its dominant position.
The anti-trust regulators has deepened its investigation into the accusations of abuse of market power by Google’s Android OS. The CCI director general has reportedly sent letters to several smartphone makers including Samsung, Xiaomi, Karbonn and Lava and has asked for details on the terms and conditions of their agreements with Google.
The investigation wing has also sought details if Google has imposed any restrictions on using the company’s mobile apps and services beyond eight years, beginning April 2011. The CCI has asked “licence fee or royalty payments made to Google for using Android OS and Google mobile services on a yearly basis, from April 2011 till March 2019,” the report said.
CCI had reportedly sent letters to the concerned companies last month. The ongoing investigation is time-bound and the anti-trust regulators has asked companies to respond within two weeks.
The anti-trust regulator started its probe into Google’s operating system in mid-April after it received complaints that Android was hampering the competition and was blocking out rivals. As of March 2019, Android has 99% share of the Indian market. Google said that they would work with the watch dog. It is likely that Google executives have to appear before the regulator as a part of the investigation, the report added.
In February 2018, the CCI imposed a fine of Rs. 136 crore on Google India for search bias and abusing its market dominance, on a complaint filed in 2012. European Union regulators, last year, found it guilty of abusing its dominant position and charged it with a fine of Rs. 35,000 crore on three counts — bundling the search engine and Chrome app into the OS; restricting phone makers from creating devices that run forked-versions of Android; and making payments to certain large manufacturers and mobile network operators to provide exclusively for Google search app on handsets.
CCI has asked for other details including the annual sale of devices by Operating System (OS) for brands, smartphones and tablets between 2011 and 2019. It has also sought information on mobile application distribution, anti-fragmentation, Android compatibility or any other agreement with Google or any of its units in the same period. Companies opting for Google apps have to enter into an anti-fragmentation agreement, which means they can’t select what apps to offer from the suite of products.
The CCI has asked Handset makers regarding ins and outs of their own app stores, the number of apps they feature, yearly investment on R&D, maintenance and upgradation of app stores and yearly revenue in the same period. The anti-regulator has also asked if the competitor’s app stores can be installed on smartphones and sought details on the same.