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July 31, 2014

Google’s mobile software to be scrutinised by European Commission

Search giant to be cross-examined amidst claims of unfair advantage.

By Ben Sullivan

Google is preparing to face a challenge to its mobile software business from European regulators following a four-year investigation into the web giant’s internet search practices did not impress EU politicians.

A source familiar with the matter said that European regulators are readying themselves for a case investigating whether or not Google abuses its 80% market share of the Android market to unfairly promote its own services such as maps.

The European Commission has recently started sending select companies questionnaires to complete surrounding Google’s mobile software. Reuters has reported seeing one questionnaire which asks firms if there was a requirement set by Google to not pre-install apps that directly compete with Google services.

Furthermore, the European Commission is asking companies to go back as far as 2007 to provide emails, letters, and meetings notes with Google. In a statement, Google said: "Anyone can use Android without Google and anyone can use Google without Android.

"Both the U.S. FTC and Korean Fair Trade Commission have examined Google’s agreements around Android in depth and concluded that there was no cause for legal concerns."

The European Commission’s current chief of competition, Joaquín Almunia, is set leave the post in November. He has been criticised for being too soft in the investigation into how Google presents its search results. It will not be until September when a final decison on changes to Google’s search results are made.

In May, the German government announced it was considering setting up ‘cyber courts’ that will decide in disputes between Google and people wanting their information deleted from the search engine.

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An interior ministry spokesperson said that outcomes of such conflicts should not be decided by a Google algorithm.

The move follows the EU Court of Justice ruling on the ‘right to be forgotten‘, a landmark case where it was decided citizens in the EU have the right to have their information deleted from Google search results.

The cyber courts (as phrased by the FT) would prevent Google automatically taking down search results, and will put people in charge of the decisions. The ministry said that if search providers, such as Google, introduced automatic information takedown, public information would be at risk.


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