Google accused of anti-competitive Android practices in Europe

A pressure group with members including Microsoft, Oracle and Nokia has filed a complaint with the European Commission claiming that Google has used anti-competitive practices to dominate the mobile space.

Under the Fairsearch name, the group claims that Google has unfairly cemented its control over consumers’ mobile internet experience and in online advertising for mobile.

The search giant’s Android platform runs on 70 per cent of devices shipped at the end of 2012, according to Strategy Analytics, Fairsearch noted, and Google has a 96 per cent share of the mobile search advertising the market, according to research agency eMarketer. The group also accuses Google of using “deceptive conduct to lock out competition in mobile”.

The group said that Google’s dominance in the smartphone operating system market came from its policy of giving Android to device manufacturers free of charge. Yet the group claims these same device manufacturers are forced to pay costs for Google services such as Maps, YouTube and Play that are required to be prominently placed on the phone. This, Fairsearch said, hinders rival app and service providers.

“Google is using its Android mobile operating system as a ‘Trojan Horse’ to deceive partners, monopolise the mobile marketplace, and control consumer data,” said Thomas Vinje, Brussels-based counsel to the FairSearch coalition.

“We are asking the Commission to move quickly and decisively to protect competition and innovation in this critical market. 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.”

The complaint added that Google’s “predatory distribution of Android” at below-cost makes it difficult for other OS providers to compete with the mobile platform.

Microsoft itself was once the target of similar anti-competitive allegations. In 2004, the European Union found Microsoft guilty of abuse of its dominant position in the PC market.

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