FairSearch files complaint against 'Google's anti-competitive' mobile strategy, in the EU

FairSearch, a coalition comprised of 17 global businesses including Expedia, Kayak, Microsoft, Oracle, Nokia and TripAdvisor, has announced that it has filed a complaint with the European Commission (EC) against Google, citing an "anti-competitive strategy" and consolidating "control over consumer Internet data for online advertising" in the mobile space.

FairSearch uses two reports from Strategy Analytics (SA) and eMarketer to base its claims. According to the coalition, Google exerts its dominance in the mobile operating system space with Android, which held a 68.4 percent market share in 2012 per SA, and in mobile search advertising, which eMarketer says Google dominates with a 96 percent market share.

"Google is using its Android mobile operating system as a ‘Trojan Horse’ to deceive partners, monopolize the mobile marketplace, and control consumer data", says Thomas Vinje, a counsel for FairSearch. "We are asking the Commission to move quickly and decisively to protect competition and innovation in this critical market. Failure to act will only embolden Google to repeat its desktop abuses of dominance as consumers increasingly turn to a mobile platform dominated by Google’s Android operating system".

According to Google, "the Google apps for Android, such as YouTube, Google Maps and Navigation, Gmail, and so on are Google properties that are not part of Android, and are licensed separately" and "if the device is to include Google Play, Google will typically validate the device for compatibility before agreeing to license the Google Play client software".

As a result, FairSearch also says that the search giant "uses deceptive conduct to lockout competition in mobile". According to the coalition, even though Google gives "Android to device-makers for 'free'", the company requires manufacturers to "pre-load an entire suite of Google mobile services and to give them prominent default placement on the phone", in order to "include must-have Google apps such as Maps, YouTube or Play".

Basically the group cries foul at the presence of Google services on Android, which it calls a "predatory distribution" of the green droid operating system. According to FairSearch, the "below-cost" policy "makes it difficult for other providers of operating systems to recoup investments in competing with Google’s dominant mobile platform".

The complaint raises issues similar to the ones brought against Microsoft's Windows in the last decades. At the time the operating system bundled Microsoft services and programs, including Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player and others, and gave competition little room to grow and develop against the pre-installed offerings.

Now FairSearch seems to think that another major player -- Google -- is exerting its dominance a bit too much. Considering that Microsoft is part of the coalition the situation is a tad ironic. Nonetheless, the only question is whether the EC agrees with the complaint or not. If it does, any subsequent decision could dramatically change the mobile landscape.

Photo Credit: Sebastian Duda/Shutterstock

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