Google is once again under scrutiny from United States antitrust regulators who are accusing the global giant of having a monopoly. In this case, the technology company is said to be preventing access to its Android mobile operating system to competitors.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has agreed with the Justice Department to launch an investigation into Google’s Android business. According to reports, Google grants priority to its own services on its Android mobile platform. Meanwhile, the services from companies outside of Google are restricted and given reduced priority.
Several Google services, such as its search and maps, are bundled together on Android devices.
The investigation is still in its infancy, and there is no guarantee that an actual legal case against Google will be started.
The inquiry comes just two years after United States antitrust officials closed an investigation into Google’s internet search business. The company was accused of favoring its own services in its search engine results. The investigation was dropped after Google made voluntary changes.
Russia recently declared that Google is in violation of antitrust laws, demanding that the company “end abuse of its dominant market position”.
Earlier this year, Google faced antitrust issues in Europe over its internet searches. The EU has also been investigating Google’s Android platform for possible antitrust violations. It is not known if EU officials are cooperating with investigators in the United States on the matter.
Statistics from the second quarter of this year showed that Google’s Android represented 59% of all smartphones in the United States. Apple’s iPhone came in second with 38%, and Microsoft’s Windows Phone was in third with just 2.35%.
NYU Law Professor Harry First has been examining the issue from a legal perspective.
First said, “The practice of bundling products and services together may violate antitrust laws if a company dominates the market for a product that customers need, and then forces them to buy a complementary product or service. If consumers can go to other manufacturers to avoid the bundled product, there’s likely no antitrust violation. The question for Android is: do they really have sufficient market power, particularly in a world where there are other mobile-phone operating systems?”
Having previously been under antitrust scrutiny in the past, it is clear that regulators are going to take a good hard look at Google to ensure that the company is not intentionally trying to maintain a monopoly in the mobile operating system market. Google might have a more difficult challenge convincing regulators this time around.