EU investigating Google over anti-competitive behaviour

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Search engine giant accused of forcing manufacturers to use its services on Android platform

The European Commission has opened up an investigation in to Google accusing it of anti-competitive behaviour.

The EC complaint claims that the search engine giant has used its Android operating system to unfairly force manufacturers to use its other services such as Gmail, Google Search and its native app store Google Play.

The complaint against Android is made up of three topics and forms part of a wider investigation into Google’s alleged anti-competitive behaviour.

The three parts are: claims that Google requires or incentivises manufacturers to pre-install its own applications and exclude those from rivals; allegations that Google bundles its services unfairly by making some services inaccessible without others being installed; and complaints that manufacturers are hindered from developing other versions of Android, known as “forking”.

The Android platform is open source and is the most commonly used smartphone platform in the world with 76.6 per cent market share at the end of 2014 according to IDC.

Google said that it “strongly disagreed” with the allegations, which are the result of  a five year investigation.

“It’s important to remember that [our partner agreements] are voluntary – you can use Android without Google – but provide real benefits to Android users, developers and the broader ecosystem,” said lead engineer Hiroshi Lockheimer.

“Our app distribution agreements make sure that people get a great ‘out of the box’ experience with useful apps right there on the home screen. This also helps manufacturers of Android devices compete with Apple, Microsoft and other mobile ecosystems that come preloaded with similar baseline apps.”

The competition commissioner said she had issued a “statement of objections”, and gave Google ten weeks to respond to the accusations.

It could face huge fines if found in breach of competition rules. In recent years, the Commission has imposed antitrust penalties on other tech giants, ordering Intel to pay €1.1 billion (£793 million) in 2009, and Microsoft €516 million in 2013.

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