Google competitors complain about, er, Google

Posted by Nermin Hajdarbegovic

European regulators have received yet another complaint about Google’s business practices, and this time it comes from Fairsearch Europe, a coalition of Google competitors.

The complaint accuses Google of using the Android platform to build advantages for key Google apps, found on most Android smartphones and tablets.

It all boils down to Google’s bundle strategy. Phone markers that agree to use Google’s Android OS are contractually obliged to ship their devices with a range of Google apps. The coalition claims Google apps feature prominently on device desktops, although what they probably mean to say is that they are featured in the app drawer or launcher panes.

EU antitrust chief Joaquin Almunia did not comment the new complaint, but he noted that EU regulators have been examining Android independently for the past two years, the New York Times reports. However, they were trying to establish whether Google abused its dominant position in search, not whether it was unfairly bundling apps. Google isn’t keen to comment on the complaint, either.

Thomas Vinje, the lead lawyer for Fairsearch Europe, argued that Google’s practices result in unfair advantages, as Android powers over 70 percent of the smartphones shipped in Europe.

Nokia and Microsoft are members of Fairsearch Europe. Both outfits have dabbled in mobile operating systems, and both bundled their own apps on every single smartphone they ever shipped. 

Microsoft has played a similar role before, as an influencer on the Initiative for a Competitive Online Marketplace, ICOMP, which urged the European Commission to investigate Google for anticompetitive search practices.

It gets even trickier, as Android is an open operating system and the vast majority of consumers use Samsung, HTC, Motorola or LG gear. They all ship with custom launchers and apps. Only Nexus products boast a plain vanilla Android experience. 

In other words, Fairsearch Europe might as well be going after Samsung rather than Google.