Google’s Android competitors make formal antitrust complaint to Europe

9 Apr 2013

A group of Android competitors, including Nokia and Microsoft, have sent a formal complaint against Google to European antitrust regulators who are in the final stages of an investigation into Google’s search practices.

The FairSearch Group consists of 17 organisations including Nokia, Microsoft, Oracle, Allegro and various online businesses, including Tripadvisor, Kayak and Expedia.

They describe themselves as a group of businesses and organisations “united to promote economic growth, innovation and choice across the internet ecosystem by fostering and defending competition in online and mobile search.”

The group accuses Google of using its Android software as a deceptive way of building advantages for Google apps in 70pc of the smartphones shipped today.

“Google is using its Android mobile operating system as a ‘Trojan horse’ to deceive partners, monopolise the mobile marketplace, and control consumer data,” said Thomas Vinje, Brussels-based counsel to the FairSearch coalition.

“We are asking the commission to move quickly and decisively to protect competition and innovation in this critical market. Failure to act will only embolden Google to repeat its desktop abuses of dominance as consumers increasingly turn to a mobile platform dominated by Google’s Android operating system.”

The group claims Google achieved its dominance in the smartphone market by giving its Android OS to device makers for free.

But in reality they say phone makers who want to use the OS must have Google apps, such as Maps, YouTube or Play, in order to use the OS on the phone, which disadvantages other providers of apps.

An antitrust investigation into Google’s competitive dominance of search has been ongoing since November 2010. In response to complaints from a number of companies, including smaller competitors across Europe, the commission launched a large-scale investigation to review Google’s dominant market position.

The latest move by the Fairsearch Group comes just a week after a taskforce of European data regulators joined forces to take co-ordinated action over Google’s privacy practices following its decision a year ago to revise its privacy policy into a single document.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years