The European Commission on Wednesday said an initial investigation into Google’s Android practices found the tech giant abused its dominant market position and violated European Union anti-trust rules.
According to the commission, Google’s practice of pre-installing certain apps and its search engine on Android devices hinders competitive access to the market. The commission also said Google’s actions “seem to harm consumers by stifling competition and restricting innovation in the wider mobile space.”
In particular, the commission has alleged that Google has run afoul of anti-trust rules by requiring manufacturers to pre-install Google Search and Google’s Chrome browser, and requiring them to set Google Search as the default search service on devices; preventing manufacturers from selling devices that run on competing operating systems based on the Android open source code; and by giving financial incentives to manufacturers and operators to exclusively pre-install Google Search on their devices.
The commission on Wednesday said it outlined these concerns in a Statement of Objections sent to Google and parent company, Alphabet.
“A competitive mobile internet sector is increasingly important for consumers and businesses in Europe,” EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager said in a statement. “Based on our investigation thus far, we believe that Google’s behaviour denies consumers a wider choice of mobile apps and services and stands in the way of innovation by other players, in breach of EU antitrust rules. These rules apply to all companies active in Europe.”
According to the commission, Google already holds market shares of more than 90 percent in the areas of internet search services, licensable smart mobile operating systems and Android app stores in Europe. Officials said they believe the contested Google practices could “lead to a further consolidation of the dominant position of Google Search in general internet search services.
The commission said the Statement of Objections does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation. Vestager noted Google will now have a chance to respond to the commission’s concerns before the investigation continues.
The EU investigation into Google’s Android practices began in April 2015. There is no legal deadline for the commission to complete anti-trust inquiries.
The findings come in addition to a separate EU anti-trust investigation into Google’s treatment of its comparison shopping services. In that case, Google has already submitted a detailed response to the allegations and the commission is in the process of sorting through the data provided by the tech giant, Vestager said.
The European Commission’s conclusions echo those previously reached by Russian regulators. In September, Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) found Google guilty of violating the country’s anti-monopoly laws after competing search engine Yandex filed a complaint. Google appealed, but the FAS decision was upheld by Russia’s Arbitration Court in Moscow in March.
In addition to an EU and Russian probes, Google is also facing scrutiny from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which opened an investigation in September into similar allegations that Google prioritizes its own products over those of the competition.
Filed Under: Industry regulations