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

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.

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.

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