Report: EU heightens scrutiny into Google's Android tactics

The European Commission is stepping up its ongoing informal investigation into Google's licensing tactics for its Android  platform following a formal complaint made by several companies in April about Google's practices, according to a Financial Times report.

The European Commission is reportedly looking into Google's Android practices.

The report, citing Commission documents, noted that the Commission's informal investigation into Android has been open for a year, but the issue took on a sharper focus after FairSearch, an international coalition of 17 online search and technology businesses including Microsoft, Nokia and Oracle, alleged that Google has abused its dominant position in the smartphone market.

Further, the report said the documents indicate that the Brussels antitrust watchdog has focused on allegedly anti-competitive deals struck between Google and smartphone providers. The informal probe is looking into allegations that Android software was licensed "below cost," and that Google imposed exclusivity agreements with mobile device manufacturers regarding the pre-installation and placement of Google apps such as YouTube and its Play store.

The Commission has now sent out a 23-page questionnaire to device makers and operators asking for a wide range of information about mobile operating systems and pre-installed services, the FT added.

In its complaint filed in April, FairSearch claimed that Google is using its Android mobile operating system as a "Trojan Horse" to "monopolise the mobile marketplace" "and asked the Commission to "move quickly and decisively to protect competition and innovation in this critical market".

Google's response, according to the Financial Times, has been to stress the openness of the Android platform. "Handset makers, carriers and consumers can decide how to use Android, including which applications they want to use," the search giant added.

The EC is already investigating Google over its search business, and a settlement is reported to be close in this case.

Google is not the only mobile platform provider to be facing European Union scrutiny. The Commission has also sent questions to operators in Europe to determine whether Apple's sales tactics for the iPhone in Europe are shutting out smartphone rivals.

In separate EU news this week, Reuters reported that national regulators have rejected proposals put forward by EU digital chief Neelie Kroes on what prices operators should be allowed to charge for use of their copper wire networks.

Kroes' plan to end mobile roaming charges met with more success, however. The Daily Telegraph wrote that the 27 European Commissioners have now voted in favour of the package, which is expected to come into force by July 1, 2014.

For more:
- see this FT article (sub. req.)
- see this FairSearch release
- see this Reuters article
- see this Daily Telegraph article

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