Google formally investigated on Android operating system and applications

By Gabriele Accardo

On 20 April 2016, the European Commission issued a statement of objections (see also the fact sheet, and infographic) to Google and its parent company, Alphabet, based on the preliminary view that Google has implemented a strategy on mobile devices to preserve and strengthen its dominance in general internet search, allegedly in breach of Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union that prohibits the abuse of a dominant position that may affect trade and prevent or restrict competition, substantially upholding what the Commission had stated when it opened the investigation (for additional background, see Newsletter issue 2/2015, p. 6).

According to the Commission’s preliminary findings, Google is dominant in the markets for general internet search services, licensable smart mobile operating systems and app stores for the Android mobile operating system, with more than 90% market share in each of these markets.

The allegedly abusive practices carried out by Google are three-fold:

  • requiring manufacturers to pre-install Google Search and Google’s Chrome browser and requiring them to set Google Search as the default search service on their devices, as a condition to license certain Google proprietary apps;
  • preventing manufacturers from selling smart mobile devices running on competing operating systems based on the Android open source code;
  • giving financial incentives to manufacturers and mobile network operators on the condition that they exclusively pre-install Google Search on their devices.

Besides consolidating Google’s dominant position in general internet search services, these practices may affect the ability of competing mobile browsers to compete with Google Chrome, and hinder the development of operating systems based on the Android open source code and the opportunities they would offer for the development of new apps and services.

This investigation is distinct and separate from the Commission’s ongoing formal investigation under EU antitrust rules on other aspects of Google’s behavior in the EEA, including the favorable treatment by Google in its general search results of its own other specialized search services (see Newsletter issue 2/2015, Newsletter 1/2014Newsletter 5-6/2013Newsletter No. 2/2013Newsletter 2/2010, for additional background), and concerns with regard to the copying of rivals’ web content (known as ‘scraping’), advertising exclusivity and undue restrictions on advertisers.

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