Company files antitrust complaint in Europe over Google Play

by: William Neilson JrJune 18, 2014

aptoideportada1 elandroidelibre

In a antitrust complaint filed with the European Commission, Aptoide, a Portuguese company that runs a marketplace for mobile applications, claims that Google is abusing its dominant position in the smartphone market to push users away from app stores that rival its own, Google Play.

Last year, Nokia, Microsoft and more than a dozen other companies filed a complaint with the European Commission, accusing Google of anti-competitive behavior because of the way Google uses Android to promote its own applications. For example, Google apps such as Maps, YouTube or Play are required to preload many other Google mobile services and have prominent default placement on the devices.

“We are struggling to grow, even to survive, in the face of Google systematically setting up obstacles for users to install third-party app stores in the Android platform and blocking competition in their Google Play store.” – Paulo Trezentos, Aptoide’s co-founder and CEO.

Specifically, Aptoide has 4 complaints per GigaOM:

  1. Blocking: A non-compete clause in the Play Store terms and conditions means no fully-functional third-party app store can be found in the Play Store. The app stores that are in there are therefore “nothing more than catalogs” that then steer users to the Play Store mechanisms for downloading the apps they want, Trezentos said. Therefore, Aptoide can only be downloaded to a phone via the service’s mobile web page. Except…

  2. Installation obstacles: The firm claims Google has made it progressively more difficult to install apps from third-party sources. According to Trezentos, Aptoide’s focus groups showed that, in Android 2.1, 80 percent of users could easily find the setting that allows third-party app installation. But that option kept becoming harder to find on the relevant settings page, and after Android 4.0 “only 20 percent” of users could figure out how to find it.

  3. Bundling: Google Mobile Services (GMS), the suite that Google-ifies an Android phone, is strongly coupled with the Play Store. So, for example, an Android-based Amazon Kindle device uses Amazon’s own store and also doesn’t come with Google’s services, while a standard Android phone will come with Google Maps and so on, and must therefore also include the Play Store.

  4. Other Google services: Aptoide claims that Google’s Chrome browser blocked the page for the Aptoide installer on the premise that it was infested with malware. The firm’s attempts to show Google its clean bill of health over the last 4 weeks have allegedly elicited no response. What’s more, Aptoide says Google is making the inclusion of the Play Store mandatory in its search agreements with carriers. “They pay telecoms to ship phones with their search and now they start to bundle search and Play,” Trezentos told me.

Currently, Android has 72.4 percent of the smartphone market share in Europe so the question of whether there is an antitrust issue is interesting.

chartoftheday_1961_Smartphone_Market_Share_2014_n1 TheTecnica

Although EU regulators haven’t opened an investigation into Google’s practices, EU antitrust chief Joaquín Almunia said last month that his agency was considering opening such an investigation.

In February, Google reached a tentative deal with Mr. Almunia by agreeing to display rivals’ links more prominently in its search results. This deal allowed Google to close a three-year case and avoid a potential fine of up to $5 billion.

EU antitrust commissioner Joaquin Almunia

McClatchyInteractive EU antitrust commissioner Joaquin Almunia

This month, Martin Schulz, a German Socialist candidate to become the next head of the European Commission, threatened to overturn Mr. Almunia’s settlement with Google if he won that office. Additionally, the French economy minister, Arnaud Montebourg, and German economy minister, Sigmar Gabriel, wrote to Mr. Almunia to express concerns about the settlement and to push him to demand more concessions from Google.

  • MasterMuffin

    I don’t believe the #2. When trying to install apps from unknown source, it shows you exactly where to turn the possibility on or off

    • Corbin Crutch

      Yeah, but perhaps we’re just too smart? I know some people that can’t do anything not totally embedded already. The point is is that Google is trying to make. Android THEIRS. Now, am I opposed to that? Not at all, but that’s the point here

      • MasterMuffin

        I know that’s the point, I was just saying. And no, we aren’t too smart :D

        • Corbin Crutch

          I gotcha. I know, I was just saying what the companies would probably try to pass at court. xD

  • Macalee Harlis Jr.

    Wait, so Microsoft and Nokia dont bundle Microsoft apps with their phones and display them on the homescreen? I was under the impression they did…

    • Corbin Crutch

      Two words. Closed platform

  • I wish they would aim this lawsuit at OS’s that prohibit 3rd party App Stores at all. I’m looking at you Apple and Microsoft.

  • David Dakota

    Maybe I’m way off the mark but I don’t see Microsoft, Amazon or Apple offering to install third party app stores? Are they being sued too? I do see Google releasing full version of Android for anyone to use for any reason..?

  • Yersinia pestis

    Well, its not like anyone actually wants to use their shady service. This aptoide thing downloads itself on some websites automatically before I started using adaway.

  • Harvie Boles

    I love Android very much but this is true, seriously I don’t want to install Google Play services if possible but it is needed in most Google apps for location purposes etc.

  • Stefan

    This seems to be more of a publicity stunt, than an actual lawsuit. Then again, the legislation on mobile operating systems is more permissive than the one on desktops, one example being that Microsoft was fined for having IE as the default browser. And now every mobile OS has the default browser from the parent company, or apps that promote their services.

  • Kass


    With all these lawsuits for anti-competitive this, monopolistic that over the years, if Google was a guy, he would’ve eaten his own hair by now.

    I may be alone in this view but, I think it’s time Google just forked off Android and leave the open source elements to whomever wants to maintain them and wash it’s hands of all this grief. Then, they can do whatever they choose with the resulting fully closed source version of the OS and to hell with whoever feels (rightly or wrongly) aggrieved by Google’s undoubtedly suffocating dominance.

  • cmbeid

    I am pretty sure the Unknown Sources checkbox had been in the same location (under Settings->Security) since Android 2.1.