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More Trouble For Google: Antitrust Complaints Spread To Russia

A Russian search company says Google’s bundling its suite into Android smartphone software is anti-competitive.

More Trouble For Google: Antitrust Complaints Spread To Russia
[Photo: Flickr user Pittaya Sroilong]

Around 78% of smartphones in use around the world run Google’s Android operating system, Business Insider reports, and foreign companies are increasingly crying foul at Google’s hold on mobile software and search. Russia’s biggest search engine, Yandex, just filed a complaint with Russian authorities alleging that Google is requiring phone makers to install the whole Google app suite, including Google search, should they want to include the Google Play app store on their devices. According to a Yandex spokesman quoted by the BBC, even if users later install the Yandex app, they cannot change the default search away from Google.

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Antitrust complaints against Google are nothing new in the U.S. In January 2013, the Federal Trade Commission announced that its two-year investigation into the company would not result in a trial, and in December 2014, a judge ruled that plaintiffs suing Google would need to produce more evidence for the lawsuit to proceed, Reuters reported.

Outside of the U.S., the Russian complaint joins last November’s news that the European Parliament is calling for the breakup of Google–a stunning reprimand of the company from within the West. In a recent Re/code interview, President Obama rebuked the European Parliament move as an opportunistic attack on the U.S.-based search giant in order to make room for smaller European businesses.

The EU antitrust critique alleges that Google takes an unfair competitive advantage by boosting search results for its own services at the expense of European services. But Yelp and Microsoft, who also stand to gain business if they can rank higher in search for their services (in Yelp’s case, by getting its local restaurant and business results ahead of Google listings), also threw their weight behind the European Parliament’s suggestion. In the past, antitrust clamoring has led the U.S. Department of Justice to approve Google acquisitions but with critical caveats to ensure competition. But on a global scale, outside the U.S. government’s regulations, Google’s competitors are using every angle they can to whittle down Google’s dominance–even if the European Parliament’s call to break up the company is just a toothless recommendation to the decision-making EU body, the European Commission.

The Yandex complaint is not an official legal challenge yet, and the Russian regulatory body must respond within the month. But given the overwhelming Android penetration in Russia (80% as of February 2014) and the need to use Google Play to search for apps that compete with Google’s suite, it is troubling if Google is indeed reneging on its promise to keep Android open and customizable by strong-arming vendors into installing all of its software or none of it.

[via BBC News]

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