Report: Google obstructs Korean antitrust probe

Internet giant allegedly hindered Korea Fair Trade Commission's investigations by deleting files from computers and having staff work from home during raid last September.
Written by Liau Yun Qing, Contributor

The Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) has accused Google of obstructing its investigations into the company's alleged anticompetitive practice of making smartphone makers favor its search engine on Android-powered devices, and is considering imposing the maximum fine on the Web giant.

According to a recent report by South Korean news agency Hankook Ilbo, Google had "methodically" interfered with the agency's inquisition by deleting files from its computers and intructing its employees to work from home when officials raided the office last September. Citing Kim Dong-Soo, chairman of the KFTC, the report said the agency was considering if it should impose the maximum fine of 200 million Korean won (US$171, 800) for hindering its work.

The KFTC had been looking into claims that Google pressured smartphone makers to favor its search engine over alternatives such as Naver or Daum on devices powered by its Android mobile operating system (OS), the report noted. This might, in turn, lead to consumers preferring Google's services, it said.

In a CNET News report, Google refuted the report and denied it instructed employees to work from home or deleted documents to impede the investigation.

In an e-mail to ZDNet Asia, Taj Meadows, Google's policy communications manager for the Asia-Pacific region, said: "We will, of course, continue to cooperate with this government inquiry."

The raid came as a result of complaints lodged last April  by two Korean companies NHN, which operates Naver, and Daum Communications. Google had said then that it intended to work with the KFTC to address any question it had about the company, an earlier report noted.

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