EU takes next step towards official Android probe, steps up the pressure on Google

EU takes next step towards official Android probe, steps up the pressure on Google

Summary: A new round of questions from European regulators suggests the EC is angling for its incoming competition commissioner to launch an official probe into Android this year.

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TOPICS: Android, Mobility, EU
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With Google's widely-criticised search settlement still yet to be made official, European regulators have stepped up the threat of launching a separate official investigation into Google's handling of Android.

According to Reuters, in recent weeks European regulators have been seeking more detailed information from concerned companies to establish whether Google is abusing Android's dominant market share to promote its own services.

In a new questionnaire, the European Commission has, according to Reuters, asked whether Google required respondents to not pre-install apps, products, or services on mobile devices that rival Google's own mobile products including search, its Play app store, and maps.

The companies are being asked to provide correspondence and presentations dating back to 2007, according to the report — the year Google launched its answer to iOS.

A spokesman for Europe's competition comissioner Joaquín Almunia told ZDNet the regulator is looking for evidence of "undue restrictions to competition".  

"Our preliminary investigation concerning the Android ecosystem is ongoing. We continue to gather information. We are looking into whether there are undue restrictions to competition in this area," he said.

Google has faced a number of complaints about how it manages Android, from its free OS amounting to "below-cost distribution" that harms rivals, to more recently, a complaint about Google blocking rival app stores from being distributed on Google Play

The new round of questions comes as the EU pushes to finalise its search settlement with Google based on proposals from the company in February that was meant address concerns that Google gave preferential treatment to its own services on its search page. Part of the settlement included a new system whereby Google would auction off real-estate on its search results pages to three rivals.

While the preliminary settlement from February signalled the EU's four year investigation could soon come to a close, a final agreement has been elusive due to its unpopularity with companies claiming to be affected by Google's dominance in desktop search. The latest company to join the complaint is Yelp.

Recent revisions Google has made to the proposal have failed to meet demands by current competition chief Joaquín Almunia, who is keen on finalising a deal before he leaves the post, which is expected this November.

Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal reported that EC is likely to reopen its settlement with Google announced in February, suggesting that a final decision may be taken by whoever becomes Almunia's successor.

Read more on this story

Topics: Android, Mobility, EU

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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17 comments
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  • no, Microsoft takes probe against Google

    1) Google Android is free but manufacturers are paying to Microsoft
    2) Windows have 95 % PC market share and WE HAVE TO PAY for it = far more serious

    but the EU wants to go against Google who brings us innovations we are not pressed to use unlike Windows full of bribing over the whole world we HAVE to use

    I bet Microsoft bribed a lot of EU officials to go against better competitor Google
    Jiří Pavelec
    • More cost to the end consumer

      Is where this will inevitably end. As do most European anti-trust investigation...........
      Boothy_p
    • Dude, Microsoft is a software company

      Of course you have to pay for the product.
      What company is not in business to make money?
      And lets please stop living in decades past.
      thekman58
      • no, we don't need to pay for Android while we have to pay for Windows

        no, we don't need to pay for Android while we have to pay for Windows (bribing on the gov level)
        Jiří Pavelec
        • you pay in different ways

          collecting information about you is a form of payment, promoting services is a form of payment, distorted search results are a form of payment. Not saying this is necessarily wrong but "payment" does not always have to equal cash.
          cymru999
        • you pay in different ways

          collecting information about you is a form of payment, promoting services is a form of payment, distorted search results are a form of payment. Not saying this is necessarily wrong but "payment" does not always have to equal cash.
          cymru999
    • Google is one of the worst antitrust violators

      So you think it is anticompetitive for a company to charge for its products? The next time you go to a store, you should complain that it is unfair that the store is making you pay for the things you want to get. Also you should complain to your boss about him paying you for the work you do. Tell him you believe everything should be free, and that you cannot in good conscience accept money for the work you do.

      MS charging for software does not harm competition. What harms competition is Google not charging for software, since this eliminates not just one or two companies, but whole sectors of the software industry, which survive on software licensing.
      P. Douglas
      • Microsoft does not harm competition? :-D

        Microsoft does not harm competition? :-D
        nice joke, Microsoft own 95 % of PC market share

        - penalty for IE abuse from EU

        "Wikipedia - Spreading Fear, uncertainty and doubt about competitors"

        "The Latest Patent FUD From Microsoft Florian Makes Android/Linux Look Expensive"

        "Microsoft's dirty game - rough harassment of the independent journalist trying to uncover the real Windows world!"

        Do you know how does Microsoft earn money? Through a bribery in Slovakia, Czech republic, Hungary, ..... How much money does Microsoft have in governments' contracts all around the world?
        "Microsoft bribery probe enters Russia, Pakistan"
        And some another corruption and bribing.
        Again another bribing in Italy, Romania, China.

        "Microsoft bribes Best Buy staff to slam Mac and Linux"

        It is obvious that Microsoft is behind this complaint, because Android is for free (open source), Windows hopefully end

        the new age is "software free, services charged", Google understands, Microsoft is again 10 years late
        Jiří Pavelec
    • Wow. Jiří Pavelec sounds upset.

      I would imagine he's angry because the EU isn't taking any of Google's s bribe money to look the other way, allow Google to abuse it's position in the market.

      Too bad.
      William.Farrel
      • general lies

        any exact case Google abused its position?
        I have tons from Microsoft
        you give us just general lies
        Jiří Pavelec
        • No, Jiří it is you that supplie us with lies

          you're upset we don't believe that. Proof:

          " bet Microsoft bribed a lot of EU officials to go against better competitor Google"

          So you're saying that MS does bribe all the time, while Google never did, nor will.

          Can you see where your lie comes in?
          William.Farrel
      • google gives us Android for free

        Google gives us Android for free = you are not pressed to use Google products

        Microsoft charges us every time we want to buy a notebook = impossible to buy a good notebook without OS = corruption by Microsoft
        Jiří Pavelec
  • Is the EU taking a page from China with its 'investigation' of Microsoft?

    Just look at all of the unsupported Android versions in use today ...

    And not a one is pirated.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
    • The EU investigation of Google is already a few years old, while the China

      investigation of Microsoft started just a few weeks ago.

      So, it could be the Chinese that are "taking a page from the EU" with the investigation of Microsoft.
      adornoe@...
      • The Chinese investigation of MS might offer new fodder for the EC

        From the article:

        "European regulators have stepped up the threat of launching a separate official investigation into Google's handling of Android"

        "Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal reported that EC is likely to reopen its settlement with Google announced in February"

        Sounds to me like an opportunity for the EC to nail Google for all of the unsupported Android versions in use today. The fact that Windows XP is no longer supported does appear to be what is behind China's investigation of Microsoft. The only difference is that it's a bigger mess with Android than with Windows.
        Rabid Howler Monkey
        • The EU doesn't need MS fodder; the EU just uses any excuse to extract

          wealth from any U.S. company.

          They've already extracted huge amounts from Microsoft, and now, they're looking for other victims, as long as they have the money to pay. Apple will be another nice target for the EU.
          adornoe@...
  • Microsoft has been investigated before

    One of the outcomes if you remember was that the EU prevented them from having IE as an automatic choice and made them push a choice of browsers on people. That resulted from complaints by firefox and google.
    The fact is that google provide android free - not as a service to the world but in order to promote their own products which is where it differs from conventional open source software like Linux. Any company that makes money from what they do must be subject to scrutiny to make sure that they are not taking advantage of their size or market share to compete unfairly against other companies.

    If Google gave their platform away without placing any restrictions on what the phone manufacturers did with it then I think they would be OK. If they charged for it then some restrictions on manufacturers would be ok. We know that some large phone manufacturers do put alternative software on android - Samsung for example include their rival app store just as amazon include their app store BUT if those companies have to pay google to be allowed to do this then that could be unfair.

    I am rather surprised however that Apple do not receive so much attention as other companies seem to.

    I understand the points being made that this could result in consumers paying more but on the other hand if a company achieves market dominance by unfair practice, the consumer gain will only be short term because eventually the dominant company will seek to capitalise on their position. A classic example of this is facebook which has achieved dominance over almost every other social network and is now "charging" consumers by using their data and excessive promotional advertising.
    cymru999