Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Rivals want Google mobile inquiry

Google's smartphone rivals want it to face a competition probe

A group of companies led by Microsoft wants the European Commission to launch an anti-competition investigation into Google and its hold over mobile internet usage on smartphones.

The FairSearch initiative of 17 companies - which includes Microsoft, Nokia, and Oracle - claims Google is acting unfairly by giving away its Android operating system to mobile device companies on the condition that the online giant's own software applications like YouTube and Google Maps are installed and prominently displayed.

"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, the group's lawyer.

Android operating systems have the largest share of the smartphone market worldwide, followed by Apple's iOS platform with systems from Blackberry, Microsoft and others far behind.

"Google's predatory distribution of Android at below-cost makes it difficult for other providers of operating systems to recoup investments in competing with Google's dominant mobile platform," said FairSearch.

The European Commission is not obliged to take any action other than reply to the group's complaint. Google is already under investigation by Brussels related to its dominance of online search and advertising markets.

That complaint, launched in 2010, alleges Google unfairly favours its own services in its internet search results, which enjoy a near-monopoly in Europe. Google has proposed a list of remedies to address the Commission's concerns to achieve a settlement. The Commission is currently examining the proposed changes.

Google has already come under official scrutiny in China because of Android's dominance of the mobile smartphone market.

Several European data privacy regulators have also launched an investigation into Google, alleging the company is creating a data goldmine at the expense of unwitting users.

Last year, the company merged 60 separate privacy policies from around the world into one universal procedure. The European authorities complain that the new policy does not allow users to figure out which information is kept, how it is combined by Google services or how long the company retains it.

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