Out-Law News 2 min. read

Rivals claim Google's 'deceptive' use of Android has been anti-competitive

Google is using "deceptive conduct" in order to "lockout competition" in the mobile market in a way that breaches EU competition laws, rival search companies have alleged.

'FairSearch', which is a coalition of 17 search and technology companies including Microsoft, Expedia, TripAdvisor and Oracle, said that it had submitted a complaint to the European Commission in which it has claimed that the way Google uses its Android operating system is an abuse of its dominant position in the mobile market.

FairSearch said it took issue with agreements Google form with mobile device manufacturers in relation to Android which it said results in Google's own software and services being more readily available to consumers than those offered by rivals.

"Google achieved its dominance in the smartphone operating system market by giving Android to device-makers for ‘free'," FairSearch said in a statement. "But in reality, Android phone makers who want to include must-have Google apps such as Maps, YouTube or Play are required to pre-load an entire suite of Google mobile services and to give them prominent default placement on the phone ... This disadvantages other providers, and puts Google’s Android in control of consumer data on a majority of smartphones shipped today."

"Google’s predatory distribution of Android at below-cost makes it difficult for other providers of operating systems to recoup investments in competing with Google’s dominant mobile platform," it claimed.

A lawyer representing FairSearch called on the European Commission to clamp down on the way Google is allegedly using Android to "deceive partners, monopolise the mobile marketplace, and control consumer data".

"We are asking the Commission to move quickly and decisively to protect competition and innovation in this critical market," Thomas Vinje said. "Failure to act will only embolden Google to repeat its desktop abuses of dominance as consumers increasingly turn to a mobile platform dominated by Google’s Android operating system."

Google Android currently has a 70% share in the global smartphone operating system market, according to researchers Strategy Analytics.

The EU's Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia said that the regulator is analysing Google's use of Android, according to a report by the New York Times. The probe is not part of a separate investigation the European Commission is involved in in which it is scrutinising whether Google's search and advertising practices are compliant with EU competition laws.

Last May the Commission called on Google to propose changes to its search practices after deeming that the company had abused its dominant market position in the industry.

Almunia said that the Commission would not require Google to make changes to the mathematical algorithms that are used to determine the ranking of search results, according to the New York Times' report. However, he said that Google will have to offer ways for consumers to "distinguish" between listings for its own services and listings for those offered by rivals. Such a solution will need to be offered for both desktop and mobile device searches run by Google, he said.

"In some cases this can be achieved through the information you will receive through the natural search results,” Almunia said, according to the New York Times' report. “In other cases, maybe we will ask Google to signal what are the relevant options, alternative options, in the way they present the results."

Google has said that it "continue[s] to work co-operatively with the European Commission", according to a report by the BBC

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