Google has once again come under fire from the European Commission (EC), which accused the U.S. search giant of abusing its dominant position with the Android mobile operating system.
The EC has sent a statement of objections to Google and its parent company Alphabet, noting that its preliminary view is that "Google has implemented a strategy on mobile devices to preserve and strengthen its dominance in general Internet search."
The commission alleges that Google has breached EU antitrust rules by requiring manufacturers to preinstall Google Search and Google Chrome and set Google Search as the default search service on most Android devices sold in Europe; closing off ways for rival search engines to access the market; and giving financial incentives to manufacturers and mobile network operators on condition that they exclusively pre-install Google Search on their devices.
Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said: "Based on our investigation thus far, we believe that Google's behaviour denies consumers a wider choice of mobile apps and services and stands in the way of innovation by other players, in breach of EU antitrust rules. These rules apply to all companies active in Europe. Google now has the opportunity to reply to the commission's concerns."
The EC has already charged Google over the promotion of its own shopping service in Internet searches at the expense of rival products. Reuters noted that this case has dragged on since late 2010 and is marked by three failed attempts to resolve the issues.
Vestager has also previously vowed to press ahead with investigations of tax deals by technology companies including Apple and Google with individual EU member states.
However, the Android case could have a major financial impact for Google if the company is ultimately forced to change its business practices. Reuters said Google made about $11 billion (€9.6 billion) last year from advertising sales on Android phones with Google apps.
The EC said about 80 per cent of smart mobile devices in Europe and in the world run on Android. In the European Economic Area (EEA), it said it considers that Google generally holds market shares of more than 90 per cent in the areas of general Internet search services, licensable smart mobile operating systems and app stores for the Android mobile operating system.
European Union antitrust regulators first opened a formal investigation into Google in relation to Android in April 2015.
In November last year, Google defending its Android apps licensing programme by saying that device makers are not required to use its applications when deploying the Android smartphone operating system, and that consumers have similar freedom of choice.
The search giant was responding to comments made by search rival Yandex, which said it complained to the EU in April last year that Google's Android licensing conditions abuse the company's dominant position in the smartphone OS market. FairSearch, a lobby group backed by Microsoft, ad-blocking company Disconnect and Portugal-based app store Aptoide made similar complaints at the same time, Bloomberg reported at the time, citing a Yandex statement.
Apple faces near €50M charge in French challenge to mobile operator contracts
Cook meets Vestager to defend Apple's Irish tax arrangements
EC's Vestager vows to continue probing Google, Apple's EU tax arrangements
Report: Apple responds to EU operator concerns with tool simplifying shift from iOS to Android
Google maintains Android licensing is fair, as Yandex reveals complaint to EU