Google Now Faces Antitrust Complaint Over Unfair Advantage on Android Devices

February 18, 2015

Yandex filed a complaint against Google, alleging that the Android operating system is being used to give the latter’s services unfair advantage.

Google is being accused of forcing device manufacturers to set their default search engine to Google if they wish to preinstall its Google Play Store, which is considered one of the best marketplace for applications and other media content, such as movies and e-books, for devices running the Android operating system.

Google will still need to see the complaint filed against them at the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS), according to BBC News.

Fair Search, a coalition of search and technology companies that include TripAdvisor, Oracle, Nokia, Microsoft and Expedia, filed a similar complaint over Google’s Android operating system at the European Commission in 2013. They claimed that the mobile OS is acting as a “Trojan horse” for other Google services, such as its search engine, Gmail and Maps navigation app.

In 2014, the commission said that it will conduct a formal investigation into the matter if there is no “adequate” response that came from Google itself. Anti-trust watchdogs based in Europe already launched separate investigations on the advertising and search engine business of Google.

Yandex’s move came after three tech firms Explay, Fly and Prestigio contacted the Russian Internet company in November last year and January this year as they cannot preinstall Yandex apps and services on their manufactured Android devices due to restrictions from Google.

The companies said that they were forced to install the complete range of Google Mobile Services applications which included Google Drive, Google Translate, YouTube, Gmail and Google Play and to set the default search engine to Google or they will not be allowed to install the Android operating system.

Yandex said that Google’s restriction on device manufacturers installing its competitors’ app services was increasing. A spokesman for the Moscow-based firm said that it was still possible for users to search for and download Yandex apps, but users are not allowed to change the default search service once it was set by the device-makers.

The spokesman also said that the search share for Yandex via Android devices in Russia declined from 52 percent in February 2014 down to 44 percent this year, while iOS searches using Yandex increased in the same period.

Ochir Mandzhikov, the PR director of Yandex, told BBC: “We believe that device manufacturers should have a choice as to which search provider to set as the default or which services to have preinstalled on the device”.

Yandex said that Google’s Android operating system should be unbundled with its services as not to create unfair competition.

FAS regulators said that they will respond to the filed complaint in a month. After which, FAS will decide whether to launch a case against Google or to reject the complaint filed by Yandex.

Yandex has collaborated with other tech giants such as Microsoft and Apple to increase its presence in Russia. It also has other service apps such as shopping search, local search and maps, which can be accessed both in their own individual applications and on web pages viewed on browsers, according to Tech Crunch.

With Google’s 90 percent market share, it makes the search giant the largest search firm in Europe, mainly because of its mobile dominance via its Android operating system.

Google is already facing ongoing investigations, including an anti-trust case that has been on for several years now, over the company’s different services. The most controversial is its search business as competitors that offer search services are heavily impacted with Google’s questionable practices.

In June 2014, other app store competitors have also filed complaints against Google. Portuguese app marketplace firm Aptoide accused Google of pushing mobile users away from other app stores that compete against its Google Play app store. Users who wish to install apps from third-party app stores or links are blocked by Google. Aptoide websites are also blocked in the Google Chrome web browser.

Aptoide said that with each upgraded version of Android, more steps are being required to install apps from the Aptoide app store. In Android 2.1, 10 steps were required and 80 percent of users managed to do it. In version 2.3, it took 13 steps and 45 percent could do it. In Android 4.0 or Ice Cream Sandwich, it required 14 steps and only about 20 percent could complete the installation.

In November 2014, the European Parliament announced that they are supporting the idea to break up Google.

Yandex said that Google’s “open source” ecosystem for Android is not really open as other Google-based services are prioritized to be pre-installed in devices.

The Russian search engine company said: “Many believe that Android is an open platform. In reality, manufacturers of Android-powered devices are locked into the proprietary Google Play application store and closed APIs. In order to install Google Play on their devices, device manufacturers are required to preinstall the entire suite of Google GMS services, and set Google as the default search.”

Google is also facing investigations over its “Right To Be Forgotten” rule, where certain search results can be delisted, and over its privacy policy. (By Lord Marin)