Competitors who aren't Apple lodge antitrust complaint against Google in Europe

Competitors lodge antitrust complaint against Google in Europe

Google competitors -- no, not including Apple -- have lodged an antitrust complaint against the company with the European Union. Microsoft, Nokia, Oracle, and others, all under the name Fairsearch Europe, have alleged that Google is using Android’s dominant market position to provide an advantage for Google apps. According to the New York Times, Fairsearch is alleging that Google is muscling their OEM partners into giving Google’s apps prominent placement:

For example, phone makers that agree to use Android — and that also want Google applications like YouTube — face contractual requirements to place those applications and other Google-branded applications in prominent positions on the mobile device’s desktop, Mr. Vinje said.

Fairsearch, which probably shouldn't be confused with something actually fair -- calls Google’s free distribution of Android “predatory” because companies like Microsoft, which sells licenses to OEMs, have a hard time making their money back when they’re competing with Google. Essentially they're accusing Google of dumping, but with software instead of hardware.

The prominence of Google’s apps on Android phones puts others at a disadvantage. It’s a bit funny for Microsoft to be complaining about this, seeing as they were penelized for essentially this same practice with regards to web browsers on Windows. What a difference a half a decade makes.

Google is already under investigation by the European Commission for similar potential antitrust violations, using its dominant position in web search to push its web app ecosystem. Android itself is facing scrutiny as well, separately from either the web search or Fairsearch complaints.

We've seen what happened to Microsoft post-anti-trust. iOS users remain huge Google services users, even as iPhones and iPads compete with Android devices. What's you take? Is Google crossing any lines? And would this help Apple or just set them up as the next potential target?

Source: The New York Times, via Android Central

Joseph Keller

Joseph Keller is a news reporter for iMore. He's also chilling out and having a sandwich.

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There are 24 comments. Add yours.

firesign3000 says:

Funny to see Microsoft as part of the group that's suing.

snowbound says:

"Funny" doesn't quite cover it. Perhaps funny at first blush, but after a second I think it turns into "but of course they're part of it". And not for any specifically evil reasons, but because they were held to that sort of scrutiny on the web browsers, so why shouldn't their competitors be held to that scrutiny? And if they have the resources to make that point, why wouldn't they?

That said, I do wonder if a line gets drawn somewhere. I mean, can I complain to my town that I didn't know there was a pizza joint two streets over from where I was, and therefore I only went to the one that was right in front of me? At what point do we draw the line between the manufacturers' responsibility to make the user aware of options, and the users' responsibility to research the options?

OrionAntares says:

The even funnier thing is that a large number of the Google apps I've seen pre-loaded end up in the app drawer. The only two that are consistently on start pages are the search widget and the App Market.

The real ones determining what gets displayed "prominently" are the carriers that build the start screens to have all their special services and in-build apps. And when they don't, I've still seen the OEMs put their built in apps prominently on the start screens and hide Google apps in the the drawer, if they default install them at all.

john_v says:

I don't know about contractual agreements and all that jazz, but it doesn't seem to me to be too far fetched to have google apps getting prime placement on Android devices. After all, it is android. I know it's been said here before but I think the next big step in the smartphone wars is the ecosystem. So if M$ is ticked, how about they build better phones. Make your ecosystem better than the competitors, so people will *want* to use your phones and tablets.

sting7k says:

I agree it's funny the position Microsoft is in now. But really I should be seeing a browser selection the first time I boot up an Android phone if the EU is going to be fair.

Oletros says:

"But really I should be seeing a browser selection the first time I boot up an Android phone if the EU is going to be fair."

Why? What has to to the browser ballot with that?

iSRS says:

"The prominence of Google’s apps on Android phones puts others at a disadvantage. It’s a bit funny for Microsoft to be complaining about this, seeing as they were penelized for essentially this same practice with regards to web browsers on Windows. What a difference a half a decade makes."
Actually, valid complaint or not, I think the fact that Microsoft was in Google's spot in the past makes perfect sense that they would be involved. They weren't allowed to, so in their mind, why should Google be?
My opinion? I buy and Apple phone for the Apple experience. If I want the google experience? I will buy an android. I want the Windows experience? I'll buy a windows phone.

kch50428 says:

Way too much common sense... :)

Nathan Grey says:

I always thought that the lawsuit against Microsoft was stupid, now I see that Google is facing the same stupid type of lawsuit. This ranks about the same as making Apple create a micro usb to lightning adapter for phones sold in Europe.

Personally, while I do love money, I would be sorely tempted to pull out of a market under such restrictions. Safety concerns I can understand, but things such as what browser something ships with or the fact that I created a specific charger, I don't understand.

OrionAntares says:

So wait, they are complaining that companies that want to use the Google apps have to place the Google apps in "prominent" locations? You mean like in the app drawer??? When I got my Android phone, there were two Google apps that were defaulted to the main screens, the search bar and the App Market. None of the others were on the main screen. In fact, a lot of the Google apps needed to be downloaded from the Market. YouTube was pre-loaded though, but in the app drawer.

lifecansuckbutliveitanyway2012 says:

Apple should stay out of this. Otherwise they are the next target.

Gorp Blumkin says:

next target for what exactly? nobody uses ios except for apple so no one can sue apple for them placing thier apps in prime spots.

the problem here is other makers that use android have to put google apps up infront of thier own.

apples not involved because they cant be.

wormeyman says:

It would be a very dangerous precedent (In my opinion) for the EU to say that giving away an OS or licensing it for super cheap is a predatory practice. Just because Microsoft charges $15 per handset for windows phone 8 (just guessing) doesn't mean that others have to follow their more traditional business model.

plaztiksoundz says:

Predatory pricing - the practice of selling a product or service at a very low price, intending to drive competitors out of the market, or create barriers to entry for potential new competitors.

I'm pretty sure the EU doesn't need to open a new precedent. The precedent already exists.

wormeyman says:

Then why haven't they gone after Linux/Chrome/Firefox for dumping their cheap open source software and forcing companies like Opera Software to no longer charge for their software. That is what i was thinking as opposed to more malicious dumping like selling software below cost to drive out competitors.

hittrj01 says:

Okay, let's go through the obvious ignorance in this post. 1) Linux is a kernel, not an OS or company. It is an open-source, community-driven technology that has no actual owner. 2) Chrome is a web browser, not a company. Yes, Google makes Chrome, but it hardly competes with other OS's, unless you mean Chrome OS, which can only be acquired by purchasing a Chromebook, so again, I don't see how it competes. 3) Firefox, again, is a web browser, not a company. And Mozilla, who makes Firefox, is a non-profit organization, so it's not as if they are trying to drive competitors out of the market and have everything to themselves. They truly are, of any of the "big" tech companies out there, simply doing what they do to try and make the customers happy.

plaztiksoundz says:

Was starting to write the're spot on...thanks for saving me a lot of time!

johncblandii says:

Microsoft bundles their own apps, Apple does the same, and so does Nokia.

Who doesn't bundle their own apps/services?

Trappiste says:

Google is an advertisement firm, making their money on selling ads. Microsoft is a software compnaany, making their money by selling software licenses. So their approaches to offering mobile OS's is going to be different no matter what. Now, Google offers Android for free in order to push its services, which are bundled with android, which in turn yield ad revenue. So yes, they are dumping in the most traditional sense of the word. MS learnt it is bad. Should EU be fair, Google cannot get a jail free card either.

iOS users of course rely heavily on Google services since iOS lacks an integaretd user experience similar to e.g. WP where the user can rely on the platform itself, not needing third parties beyond, say, Nokia. Apple does not provide that, as iOs is effectively just an app launcher, not an integrated OS. So what ever happens here will inevitably affect Apple users, too.

asuperstarr says:

This is an interesting article. Some of the groups listed is surprising as well. I wonder how far this will go and will law suit stand in court or will their be a settlement. Great article!

paperbirch says:

What is more interesting to me is not so much that Microsoft is part of this complaint, as much as Google's hitherto close partners, especially Samsung, deciding to join in this cabal. Microsoft has never been Google's friend and would do anything including legal maneuvering to trip them, so no surprise there. However the fact that Samsung and other Android partners felt emboldened to join in is much more fascinating. When Samsung launched their new S4 phone last month, they intentionally deprecated or hid some of the Google services in favor of their own, didn't mention Android much, and Google not at all. They must feel the Android platform is mature enough that they can do without Google's help if they have to. As it happens, Samsung makes much more money from Android than Google, thank you very much Google for what you have done for us so far. The fact that they are now ready to stab their former enabler in the back, the hand that fed them, is pure opportunism and greed. Oh the irony of this whole thing! If people think Google has no morals or is not principled, Samsung happens to live in the super subterranean world below the 7th level of Dante's inferno.

Couchpotato4life says:

I see no mention of Samsung in any of the articles and after searching the website and finding the companies behind it, I don't see where you came to the conclusion that Samsung was in any way involved in this action.

shinuyuki says:

Wait so let me get this right..Google is in trouble for putting their own applications on Android phones? I really don't see the problem unless OEMs are NOT ALLOWED to put their own applications on their OEM devices. If they don't allow this, then yes, they deserved to be punished, but I don't think Google is doing this. Thoughts?

GlowingBlue says:

" makers that agree to use Android — and that also want Google applications face contractual requirements to place those applications and other Google-branded applications in prominent positions..."

So the OEMs are saying, it's not fair that Google provides a "free" to license mobile OS, and gives us access to the suite of Google applications.

Because in return we have to put THEIR apps on our mobile desktop that any user can re-arrange or delete at any time.

Come again?