A diverse group of companies including Microsoft, Nokia and Oracle, has filed a complaint with the European Commission about what it dubs Google’s “anti-competitive mobile strategy” of allowing free use of the Android platform.
The FairSearch complaint boils down to Google using Android as a ‘Trojan Horse’ to sign up advertising partners, monopolise the mobile market and control user data by letting mobile hardware manufacturers use its operating system free of charge.
The group is concerned that as the online advertising market shifts increasingly to mobile platforms with the rise in smartphones and tablets, Google is giving itself an unfair head start.
“Google achieved its dominance in the smartphone operating system market by giving Android to device-makers for ‘free’. But in reality, Android phone makers who want to include must-have Google apps such as Maps, YouTube or Play are required to pre-load an entire suite of Google mobile services and to give them prominent default placement on the phone,” the group argued.
“This disadvantages other providers, and puts Google’s Android in control of consumer data on a majority of smartphones shipped today. Google’s predatory distribution of Android at below-cost makes it difficult for other providers of operating systems to recoup investments in competing with Google’s dominant mobile platform.”
In an attempt to throw weight behind its case, FairSearch cited other issues European regulators have had with Google.
It referenced action taken by six European data protection authorities over Google’s consolidated privacy policies, and the search giant’s payment of a record fine to the US Federal Trade Commission last year over misleading privacy promises to Safari users.
“We are asking the Commission to move quickly and decisively to protect competition and innovation in this critical market,” said Thomas Vinje, Brussels-based counsel to the FairSearch coalition.
“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.”
FairSearch calls itself “an international coalition of 17 specialised search and technology companies”.
Its members range from Microsoft, Microsoft-founded travel site Expedia, ex-Microsoft-exec-led Nokia, and TripAdvisor, which as far as V3 is aware does not have any ties with Microsoft. Microsoft is, of course, well-versed in monopoly laws, having been embroiled in its own fairly major anti-competition cases with both the US and EU in the past.
Oracle is also a member of the organisation; this is surprising in that Oracle makes its money from the enterprise software and hardware market rather than from search; less surprising considering the protracted legal battle between Oracle and Google over the Sun-developed Java platform that sits at the heart of Android.
Apple is absent from the list, but it is likely that execs in Cupertino are very pleased to hear the news and wish the FairSearch group all the luck in the world.
Madeline Bennett is editor of V3 and The INQUIRER. Previously, she was editor of IT Week. Prior to becoming a journalist, Madeline was an English teacher at a London secondary school. Madeline is a regular technology commentator on TV and radio, including Sky, BBC and CNN.