EC opens anti-trust probe into Android licensing terms

Google's Android operating system is to be probed by the European Commission to assess whether the U.S. company breaches the region's anti-trust laws.

The Commission on Wednesday confirmed it has opened a probe into whether Google has entered into anti-competitive agreements or abused a dominant position in the field of operating systems (OSes), applications and services for smart mobile devices.

Margrethe Vestager, EU Commissioner in charge of competition policy, explained that she opened the Android probe to ensure that the smartphone market remains competitive. "Smartphones, tablets and similar devices play an increasing role in many people's daily lives and I want to make sure the markets in this area can flourish without anti-competitive constraints imposed by any company."

Android has quickly become the world's dominant smart device platform. Research company IDC said 81.5 per cent of smartphones shipped in 2014 ran the OS, compared to 14.8 per cent for Apple's iOS and 2.7 per cent for Microsoft's Windows Phone.

In a statement, the EC explained its probe will focus on whether Google's current Android licensing terms hinders the development and launch of rival OSes, applications and services. In a separate statement, the Commission said it decided to investigate after receiving two complaints regarding Android.

The EC on Wednesday also sent a formal letter of objection to Google regarding how it handles search results in the European Union, as part of a separate anti-trust probe.

Vestager explained that she is concerned Google "has given an unfair advantage to its own comparison shopping service, in breach of EU anti-trust rules."

While the Commission noted the letter does not prejudge the outcome of the Google investigation, Vestager said it gives the company "the opportunity to convince the Commission to the contrary."

If Google fails to convince the EC, it "would have to face the legal consequences and change the way it does business in Europe," Vestager stated.

For more:
- see this EC announcement on Android
- view this related EC statement

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