european union flags Credit: tiseb/Flickr

FairSearch Europe, a coalition of companies that includes Microsoft, Nokia, and Oracle, has filed a formal complaint with the EU over Google’s alleged anti-competitive practices in the mobile market.

Over the past couple of years, Google has been under scrutiny from regulators in the US and the European Union for its privacy practices and the alleged abuse of its dominant position in the search engine market. More specifically, Google was accused of giving its own products preferential treatment in search results, which according to critics, provides the Mountain View giant an unfair advantage over rivals.

One of the most outspoken critics of Google’s practices in the search business has been FairSearch, a group backed by Microsoft among others, that is ostensibly dedicated to promoting fair competition. Now the same organization, through its FairSearch Europe presence, has filed a formal complaint with the EU’s antitrust watchdog over Google’s Android.

Besides Microsoft, FairSearch Europe brings together companies like Oracle, Nokia, Expedia, TripAdvisor, along a few other smaller ones. The group says in the complaint that Google is using Android “as a deceptive way to build advantages for key Google apps in 70 percent of the smartphones shipped today.”

“Google is using its Android mobile operating system as a ‘Trojan Horse’ to deceive partners, monopolize the mobile marketplace, and control consumer data,” said Thomas Vinje, Brussels-based counsel to the FairSearch coalition. “We are asking the Commission to move quickly and decisively to protect competition and innovation in this critical market. Failure to act will only embolden Google to repeat its desktop abuses of dominance as consumers increasingly turn to a mobile platform dominated by Google’s Android operating system.”

Specifically, FairSearch takes issue with Google’s licensing model for its suite of apps, which the group calls “must-have”. These apps, which include Maps, Talk, YouTube, and others, are licensed by Google to OEM partners, such as Samsung or HTC. While the Android operating system is free, if an OEM wants to preload Google’s apps, it must license the entire package. FairSearch claims that manufacturers are forced by the licensing terms to give Google’s apps prominent default placement on their phones, a practice that the group considers anti-competitive.

Moreover, FairSearch bemoans the “predatory distribution” of Android, saying that, because Google essentially gives away Android, other software makers (read Microsoft) aren’t able to make money off their own operating systems.

[quote qtext=”Google’s predatory distribution of Android at below-cost makes it difficult for other providers of operating systems to recoup investments in competing with Google’s dominant mobile platform” qperson=”FairSearch” qsource=” ” qposition=”right”]

Leaving the irony of the situation aside (Microsoft was severely fined by the EU over its own anti-competitive practices), it’s hard for me to understand what FairSearch Europe thinks it can accomplish with this complaint. Its arguments seem shoddy at best. I fail to see how making a piece of software open source (which Android mostly is) is bad for competition.

Moreover, nobody forces OEMs to install Google apps or to make them the default apps for certain services. Back in 2010, Verizon started offering some phones with the default search engine set to Microsoft’s Bing. The abundance of bloatware on many smartphones is a clear indication that Google isn’t restricting manufacturers or carriers from adding whatever applications they deem useful to their phones. In addition, most of Google’s apps are freely available from the Play Store.

With that said, we don’t know the precise licensing terms between Google and device manufacturers, and the EU has a history of punishing perceived abuses of dominant position. Microsoft was fined over $1.1 billion by the EU for bundling Media Player with Windows, and risks another hefty fine for failing to offer a browser option to customers, as it was supposed to.

Google is also being investigated in Europe over its privacy policies, as well as search business. A similar investigation was closed last year by the FTC in the United States with Google emerging mostly unscathed.

Bogdan Petrovan
Bogdan is the European Managing Editor of Android Authority. He loves tech, travel, and fantasy. He wishes he had more time for two of those things. Bogdan's phone is a Nexus 6P.
  • RarestName

    “Google is using its Android mobile operating system as a ‘Trojan Horse’ to deceive partners, monopolize the mobile marketplace, and control consumer data.”

    That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard in the tech world.

  • By far, only APPLE sounds like “is using its iTunes as a ‘Trojan
    Horse’ to deceive partners, monopolize the mobile marketplace, and
    control consumer data”

    Isn’t Microsoft’s Mobile Windows 8 made for the same purpose?

    • It’s always somebody else that’s trying to monopolise, isn’t it.
      Microsoft and friends are acting like babies. When all your other tricks they fail, scrunch up your eyes and start to wail.

  • Alex harewood

    That’s….. completely hilarious actually. Doesn’t windows phone do the exact same thing with a massive amount of their products? Both Nokia and Microsoft have products that compete with Google services, but because less people use them and due to their marketing failing to cause people to stop using them (Scroogled by Google, smoked by windows phone and the whole Bing vs Google search to mention a few) it wants to sue over Google packaging its apps with an OS IT OWNS. I don’t think even Apple would try for that. I mean fair enough if Nokia and Microsoft submitted apps to the play store and Google rejected them for no valid reason but as far as I’m aware that isn’t the case and neither company has submitted their competing apps to the play store. So why are they complaining. Both Nokia an Microsoft have failed to take the initiative and offer the alternatives so they really have no case. But windows phone is enough of a flop compared to Android that they are both desperate enough to do something this well, stupid. As for Oracle, well they lost their case already so they have to try this now to see if it will work. Seems the green eyed monster is running rampant in the mobile industry at the moment. How sad.

  • booas

    Shut the fuck up.

    This is so dumb.

  • Ivan Budiutama

    and when desktop PC is dominated by Microsoft, it’s okay for competition? This move is either desperate attempt or extreme laziness on innovation by ironically the exact company that monopolize competition on their PC desktop area.

  • hoggleboggle

    Ah the classic “don’t compete, litigate instead” approach pioneered by Apple and Microsoft. So, Microsoft, explain again how I can change the default map app or search engine on the windows mobile platform?

  • Hikari0307

    “because Google essentially gives away Android, other software makers aren’t able to make money of their own operating

    Tell that to Apple.

    • Jelly Bean

      Well, to be fair, Apple gives away iOS updates for free too. And OS X costs about $20/€15 per update, rather than hundreds of $/€ for a Windoze license.

    • In the context of the post, iOS is not a good example, given that Apple doesn’t license it.

      • ajm

        Correct me if I’m wrong but I think he’s saying that apple makes tons of money off of its own os despite the claims being made such as the one he quoted

  • APai

    wow microsoft is such a hypocrite. they have been abusing their monopoly for years at end now. its the same with office suite, their browser, etc etc. their FUD against their rivals is legendary. microsoft/ nokia lost in the smartphone war. now they are crying foul ? their choices made them poorer. especially nokia, by joining microsoft, instead of going for a multi platform approach.

    as for microsoft – they are free to bring in their search engine, office suite, and other apps to android. if google does not want to being in their services to windows phone – its because windows phone is in a similar position of that of linux. why doesn’t microsoft port their office suite to linux ? for years at end microsoft has abused their monopoly. hello .net ? hello ooxml ? hello explorer ? etc etc….

    oracle is a sore loser

  • Max

    M$: sore loser much…?

  • mrband

    Microsoft talking about monopoly. Hilarious… Is like Hitler accusing english about disrespect for minorities…

  • euphail

    MS, Nokia, and Oracle… the biggest pots in the kitchen, trying to the kettle black.

  • CyBrix_21

    I think they must joint force… To make the world’s most advanced OS…

    • alfonso

      the most enlightening comment I read so far. :)

      too bad they have been blinded by their own greediness.

  • Marky

    What a bunch of crap. It is for these very reasons that I prefer not to support Apple and Microsoft (by avoiding from buying their products as much as I can).

  • Odhiambo Ombewa

    Simple, we are in the post Nokia, Microsoft etc era. There are many business models, when the big ones denied as the computers the PC came! When it was too expensive to get Smart phones(Windows and Iphone) Android came. Oh Please Lets Enjoy.

  • aholsteinson

    Microsoft is such a lame company. Since they can’t compete they engage in dirty tactics and FUD. I’m so glad to be Microsoft free, don’t use a single one of their software or hardware for anything.

  • “With that said, we don’t know the precise licensing terms between Google and device manufacturers”

    I’d love to know the details. Maybe someone here could enlighten us?

  • “With that said, we don’t know the precise licensing terms between Google and device manufacturers”

    I’d like to know the details. Maybe someone here could enlighten us?

  • This is why I avoid Windows (except at work). I use Android phones and tablets and Ubuntu on laptops and desktops.