​Google to face Android FTC antitrust investigation? Report

Google could be put under the antitrust spotlight in the US over accusations that it's giving its own services priority in relation to Android.

Google faces accusations that it prioritises its own services on Android. Image: Google

US antitrust regulator the Federal Trade Commission is looking to open an investigation into whether Google blocked rivals' access to the Android operating system, according to Bloomberg.

The move could represent more regulatory troubles for Google, with the FTC striking a deal with the US Department of Justice to lead an investigation of Google's handling of Android, Bloomberg reports.

It is not yet clear whether the FTC will open an official investigation. However, officials have met with Google's rivals over accusations that it prioritises its own services on Android.

As Reuters notes in its report on the story, tech companies have previously complained to the DoJ requesting it investigate claims that Google unfairly uses Android to boost online advertising.

The threat of an investigation adds to a steady trickle of potential regulatory enforcement faced by Google across the globe.

Russia's antitrust regulator earlier this month charged Google with violating the nation's anti-monopoly laws by requiring handset makers to pre-install key Google apps on Android smartphones. Russia is expected to hand down a full decision by next week.

The EU has in April opened a probe into whether Google has used Android to stifle competition there. Its investigation focuses on whether Google has required or incentivised handset makers to pre-install Google's apps and services exclusively and whether it has blocked them from developing rival versions of Android.

The EU is also looking into whether Google bundled its own apps and service with Android.

A key question in the US is whether Android holds sufficient market share - currently around 60 percent - to make its alleged practice of app-bundling violate US antitrust laws.

Harry First, a law professor at New York University, told Bloomberg that product bundling may violate competition laws if a company dominates a market for a product that consumers need and then forces them to buy a related product or service. The company is unlikely to be violating competition laws if consumers can go to rivals.

ZDNet has asked Google and the FTC for a comment. However, spokesmen for the FTC and Google declined to comment to Bloomberg's initial report.

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