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Europeans Take New Look At Google’s Android Licensing Practices
The Financial Times is reporting that Google is now “facing an investigation by European authorities into allegations that it supported the leading Android smartphone platform and its mobile services by means of cut-price licensing and exclusivity deals.”
There isn’t a formal investigation on this question yet. Rather, the European Commission is submitting a questionnaire to device makers and mobile carriers for their input. Google’s rivals are undoubtedly behind these complaints to keep pressure on the European Commission, which is on the cusp of settling its antitrust (search-related) investigation with Google.
The essential argument against Android is akin to “dumping,” when a country subsidizes exports to boost market share. The Europeans are currently involved in a trade dispute with China, along these lines, over solar panels.
Critics argue that Google licensed Android “below cost” but also imposed “exclusivity requirements” on OEMs at the same time that have helped boost Google’s position as the dominant mobile advertising platform and network. They assert that Google requires OEMs using official Android to include Google apps on handsets, giving the company an unfair advantage over competitors and helping promote Google advertising on mobile devices
As mentioned, the European Commission is in the process concluding its antitrust (search) investigation of Google. We’re at the end of a comment period on the proposed settlement. There is another parallel investigation, focused on Android, in process. This new complaint is separate from that investigation but may be folded into it.
It’s unlikely that the Android-related complaints and investigations will prevent the search settlement however.