Google’s Android In More Hot Water in Europe
April 9, 2013

Google In Hot Water Again As European Competitors Call Android A ‘Trojan Horse’

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

Google´s open approach to Android is certainly appreciated among companies like Facebook and Samsung. Thanks to Android´s willingness to be all things to all people, Facebook Home can become a social wrapper for the phone. Android´s low licensing fees have allowed Samsung to become the number one phone maker in the world and a serious contender against Google themselves.

Yet not everyone appreciates Google´s mobile open operating system. Yesterday, 17 companies filed a complaint with European regulators about what they feel are violations of antitrust laws perpetrated by Google´s Android business practices. These 17 companies — which include the likes of Kayak, Microsoft, Nokia and Oracle — comprise the so-called FairSearch Coalition that brought the suit. In it, these companies complain that though Google allows anyone to use Android, they also use the software as a “trojan horse” to push their own apps — specifically Google Maps and YouTube.

“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, counsel to FairSearch Coalition in a statement.

Unless the European Commission acts quickly, writes Vinje, Google will “repeat its desktop abuses of dominance as consumers increasingly turn to a mobile platform dominated by Google´s Android operating system.”

The companies in the FairSearch Commission say they aren´t so upset about having to add apps like Maps and YouTube — they´re more upset that Google insists that these apps be given dominance on the device and set as default apps. This, in combination with Google´s massive size and market leader position in mobile search, could end up forcing out any competition, they claim.

Google is already under investigation by the European Commission for other practices which some companies allege are anticompetitive. These companies (which include Microsoft) have accused Google of giving preferential treatment to their own services as well as those businesses that have purchased advertising space.

Joaquín Almunia, the European Union´s antitrust chief, has said that Google could benefit by differentiating between search results from Google-owned properties and other, third-party results.

“I don´t know if you should call it labeling, or whatever, but they need to distinguish,” Mr. Almunia said in an interview with the New York Times about the ongoing desktop investigation.

“In some cases this can be achieved through the information you will receive through the natural search results,” said Mr. Alumnia.

“In other cases, maybe we will ask Google to signal what are the relevant options, alternative options, in the way they present the results.”

Google and the European Commission continue to work together to find an appropriate solution.

Now that the European Commission has received this complaint from the FairSearch Coalition, they´ll decide whether they´ll take up the case or drop it. Should they pursue this case, they´ll add it to their ongoing, two-year investigation of Google´s advertising and search practices. According to the New York Times, Google has already begun sending out proposals to the Commission to “clear up concerns” about the way they handle their search business.

“European consumers deserve a rigorous investigation of Google´s mobile practices, and real protections against further abuses by Google,” said Vinje´s statement in closing.

“Given Google´s track record of ignoring the law, mobile Internet users should be very concerned,” he added in a biting conclusion.