Google could face EU antitrust charges over Android next week

The European Commission is nearing the end of a year-long investigation

After a year-long investigation, the European Commission appears ready to accuse Google of abusing its dominant position in the smartphone OS market.

It could announce formal antitrust charges as early as next Wednesday, the Financial Times reported Friday.

The Commission began its Android investigation on April 15, 2015, the same day that it announced formal antitrust charges against Google in another investigation, accusing the company of favoring its own comparison shopping service over that of rivals.

Prompted by complaints from two companies, and its own analysis of the market, the Commission has been investigating whether Google hinders the development of alternatives to its own smartphone mapping, search and app store services by requiring that device manufacturers exclusively pre-install its own apps and services.

That investigation appears to be drawing to a close as the Commission has been circulating documents to complainants' lawyers, allowing just 24 hours for comment, according to the Financial Times. Such tight deadlines indicate that the Commission is finalizing a formal charge sheet, known as a statement of objections, the newspaper reported, citing four lawyers involved in the case.

EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager could reveal the statement of objections as early as next Wednesday, the newspaper said, citing a source close to the Commission.

The latest report comes a month after Bloomberg revealed that the Commission was taking steps towards preparing charges.

The EU isn't the only place Google's smartphone OS market dominance has been under scrutiny.

Last September, Russia's Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) ruled that Google had broken Russian law in requiring phone makers to install its own app store, apps and search tool on Android phones sold in Russia, and requiring them to place its apps on device home screens. In doing so, it prevented developers of competing services from having their apps installed by the vendors, FAS said.

Ten days later, it emerged that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice were considering a similar investigation.

StatCounter puts Android's share of the European mobile device market at over 60 percent in recent months.

If found guilty of abusing a dominant market position, Google could face a fine of up to 10 percent of its worldwide revenue, which last year was US$74.5 billion.

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Peter Sayer

IDG News Service
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