Report: European Commission set to file charges against Google over Android
App pre-install requirements are at issue, allegedly violate EU competition rules.
According to a report from Bloomberg, the European Commission (EC) is about to file an antitrust complaint over the Android operating system. The news outlet cites “three people familiar with the probe.”
Bloomberg cautions that a final decision hasn’t been made yet. Google’s Android-OEM contracts and app-install requirements have been the subject of an ongoing investigation in Europe since last year. The EC is also investigating Google’s $1 billion payment to Apple to maintain its default search position on the iPhone’s Safari browser.
Google has repeatedly maintained that any antitrust investigation of Android is unwarranted because the operating system is open-source and freely available. However, the company doesn’t provide access to Google Play unless OEMs conform to certain contractual requirements, including app pre-installs. The antitrust concept here is “tying” — selling or providing one product but making a second product or service a mandatory part of the deal.
Based on a complaint by Yandex, last year Russian competition authorities ruled against Google and barred pre-installed apps on Android devices as a condition of OEM access to Google Play. Yandex filed the same unfair competition complaint with the EC. Despite international tensions with Russia, that decision may embolden the EC to make a similar finding that pre-install requirements violate competition rules.
In addition, late last year the EC began investigating the impact of Google Maps for Android on mapping rivals, such as TomTom and HERE. This mobile mapping investigation overlaps, to some degree, the EC’s ongoing “vertical search” probe of Google. A Statement of Objections has been filed regarding shopping search, but many people anticipate a local search-related complaint is coming, as well.
Google has taken an aggressive stance against the EC’s current charges in shopping search. The company has vigorously argued that the EC’s Statement of Objections in shopping search is without specific proof and “unfounded.”
While the EC’s decisions can be reviewed by European courts, historically there has been considerable deference to its decisions. Billions of euros in potential fines are at stake in these antitrust cases.