Report: Google to Face US Antitrust Probe Over Android

26 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Google could face more antitrust scrutiny over Android.

SAN FRANCISCO — Google may face a fresh round of U.S. antitrust scrutiny with regulators looking into whether it uses its Android mobile software to stifle competition.

Just two years after the Federal Trade Commission wrapped up an investigation into Google’s search business, the Mountain View, Calif., tech giant could be facing more scrutiny. The Android mobile platform is a key element in Google’s strategy to maintain revenue from online advertising as people switch from web browser searches to smartphone apps, and action by US regulators would be a big problem for the company. Google has used a range of anticompetitive tactics, carrying on a troubling pattern of conduct that has made it more difficult and expensive for fresh, innovative companies to reach the market,” the FairSearch.org coalition said in an emailed statement. Google is being accused of giving priority to its own services on Android, while stifling access to others, a move that could give it an unfair advantage.

The new commission probe focuses on whether Google is telling Android handset makers which Google apps they must show on their phones, and how and where they are displayed, the source said. To be sure, FTC scrutiny, whether over antitrust or other wrongdoing, is commonplace in the tech industry of late: the agency has investigated Google, Apple, and Amazon AMZN 0.33% all for various reasons in the last few years. But Google could be let off the hook if it is proved that there is strong competition in the mobile operating system market – such as from Apple – and that consumers are not blocked access to other apps, Akman added. “The bottom line is if the mobile operating system market itself is competitive and consumers have different means of installing different applications onto their devices, then it will be very difficult to prove any competition law infringement,” the lawyer said. As Fortune wrote earlier this summer, Apple has “something of a reputation when it comes to antitrust issues.” The FTC’s investigation into Google search business, which began in 2011 and ended in 2013, closed with a 5-0 vote not to bring any case. Google responded to the allegations in August in a 100 page document. “Economic data spanning more than a decade, an array of documents, and statements from complainants all confirm that product search is robustly competitive,” Kent Walker, the company’s senior vice president and general counsel said in a blog post last month.

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