Anti-monopoly watchdog Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) and Alphabet (Google) have failed to reach an out of court settlement in the case of Google’s Android operating system violating monopoly laws by requiring the pre-installation of certain applications on mobile devices using Android, reports Reuters.
The case will now go to court for a decision. The FAS had imposed a 438 million ruble ($6.85 million) fine on Google after the ruling against Android. Google appealed against the ruling while the FAS had agreed to an out of court settlement if Google would pay the fine and admit to violations of antitrust laws.
In October last year, the FAS had asked Google to change its contracts with handset vendors by 18 November, or face fines up to 15 percent of its revenues from pre installed apps in Russia in 2014. This was after Google lost an appeal in a Russian court against the antitrust ruling.
US antitrust investigation: Note that in September the same year, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had allegedly begun investigations into Android, and started meeting representatives that said Google gave priority to its own services on the mobile platform, while restricting competition. In April this year, the FTC stepped up its probe, meeting with companies to hear concerns about how Android’s marketshare is being used, or possibly misused.
EU antitrust case: The European Union antitrust commission concluded in April this year, that Google has abused its dominant position by imposing restrictions on Android device makers. The company had three months to respond to the commission’s charges, following which Google could be fined 10% of its annual turnover. However, in July, Google was given an extension till September to respond to the antitrust charges.
South Korea antitrust investigation: In July, the Fair Trade Commission (FTC) of South Korea, started investigating Google over allegations of pushing Android upon local smartphone manufacturers. Interestingly, Google was accused of restricting market competition by forcing smartphone makers to preload Android OS onto their products a few years ago by the same agency, but these charges were eventually dropped.
CCI charges in India: While the report from the Competition Commission of India investigating Google in India hasn’t yet been made public, the CCI has charged Google at least on two counts: That Google’s proprietary content supersedes the relevance of search by an individual and that Sponsored links thrown up after a search are dependent purely on the amount of advertising paid to Google.
MediaNama’s take: While Google has a legit case to make for Android fragmentation, its conditions on OEMs come across as straight out bullying. The company already dominates the Android platform and its conditions ensure that it furthers its own competing services in a manner that disadvantages others. It essentially prevents OEMs from bundling their or competing services, or forking Android, if they want to continue to provide any Google services (including Google Play) by default. In a volatile market, where the number of apps on the app store determine how likely a user is to use the platform, this practice severely cripples competition offering its own services or forking Android in a way Google does not like.