Android target of antitrust complaint

Associated Press file photo --  A group of companies have called on European authorities launcn an antitrust investigation into Google’s dominance of Internet usage on mobile devices. Show caption
Associated Press file photo -- A group of companies have called on European authorities launcn an antitrust investigation into Google’s dominance of Internet usage on mobile devices.

A group of companies led by Microsoft have called on European authorities to launch an antitrust investigation into Google’s dominance of Internet usage on mobile devices.

The complaint comes from the “FairSearch” initiative of 17 companies, including Microsoft Corp., Nokia Corp. and Oracle Corp. The group claims that Google is acting unfairly by requiring device makers using its free Android operating system to bundle an entire suite of Google’s services to ensure they can include just one or two “must-have” apps, such as 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, the group’s Brussels-based lawyer.

Google does allow smartphone and tablet makers to sculpt Android to serve their own needs. In some instances, that has led to Android modifications that exclude Google’s services. For instance, Amazon.com Inc. has largely locked out Google from its popular line of Kindle Fire tablets. There also have been periodic instances of Android smartphones with either Microsoft’s Bing or Yahoo rather than Google as the built-in search engine.

Android operating systems are installed on about 70 percent of new smartphones, according to analyst estimates, handing Google the largest market share worldwide. Makers of Android devices include Samsung Electronics Co. and HTC Corp. Android is followed by Apple’s iOS system, which powers the iPhone and the iPad. Research In Motion Ltd.’s BlackBerry, Microsoft’s Windows and others trail far behind.

“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,” FairSearch said in a statement.

The European Commission, the 27-nation bloc’s executive arm and antitrust authority, must decide at some point whether to take up the case or drop it. A spokesman confirmed the complaint had been received.

Google Inc., which is based in Mountain View, Calif., did not address the complaint’s charges in detail.

“We continue to work cooperatively with the European Commission,” Google spokesman Al Verney said.

The U.S. company is already under investigation by Brussels for practices related to its dominance of the online search and advertising markets.

That complaint, launched in 2010, alleges that Google unfairly favors its own services in its Internet search results, which enjoy a near-monopoly in Europe. Google has proposed a list of remedies to address the commission’s concerns to achieve a settlement. The commission is currently examining the proposed changes.

Toby Sterling in Amsterdam and Michael Liedtke in San Francisco contributed reporting.