Google facing charges of anti-competitive behavior in Russia

According to a spokesperson for Russia’s Federal Anti-Monopoly Agency, the search giant Google is under investigation regarding bundling its services and how it in essence forces smartphone manufacturers to install Google as the default search engine in smartphones using the Android OS. The California-based tech titan denies the charges.

Russian Anti-Monopoly Agency Investigating Google Inc

“We have studied the complaint and decided to open proceedings regarding the violation of anti-monopoly regulation,” a spokeswoman for the Russian federal anti-monopoly service watchdog commented on Monday.

Google’s response

Google’s Russian office denied the charges, saying the firm did not engage in anti-competitive activities.

“Device makers are free to install the apps they choose and consumers always have complete control over the apps on their devices,” a Google spokesperson noted.

Russian search engine Yandex filed complaint

Major Russian search engine Yandex and others have filed complaints with the FAS in Russia. Yandex controls a 60% share of the Russian search market, and offers services that compete with Google’s YouTube, Maps, Gmail amd so forth. According to Yandex’s complaint, three smartphone makers in Russia were prevented from pre-installing Yandex services on their Android devices last year because of Google legal requirements regarding Android.

Analysts point out that the terms of use for Google’s version of Android with access to its app store restrict what manufacturers can install by default on devices, and essentially requires uitting Google apps and services on the smartphones and tablets.

Of note, Android controlled 81.2% of the smartphone OS global market share in 2014 based on data from Strategy Analytics, with Apple’s iOS contrilling 15% of the market and Microsoft’s Windows with just a 3% market share.

Tech experts note that Android is available in several versions. An open source version called the Android Open Source Project is available without restrictions and has been used by other smartphone manufacturers to develop their own custom OS, but it does not have access to Google’s Play Store.

Google’s version of Android was developed from AOSP, but comes already loaded with Google’s services.

European regulators are also considering anti-trust actions against Google’s mobile software business. They are working on a case that Google abuses its 80% market share of Android to promote its services, according to media sources with direct knowledge of the matter.