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US will probe Google for anti-competitive Android behavior

Steve Dent, @stevetdent
September 25, 2015
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The FTC and US Justice Department have launched an antitrust investigation into Google's Android operating system, according to Bloomberg. US regulators reportedly launched the inquiry after meeting with rival tech companies saying that Google limits their access to Android in favor of its own apps. The US move follows a similar investigation into the Android platform in Europe, where the EU Commission is looking into Google's search and bundling of applications like Gmail, Chrome and Play. The concern is that the practice creates a monopoly and crowds out rival apps like Microsoft's Outlook or Nokia's Here mapping.

Microsoft, of course, was itself dinged heavily in EU for pre-installing Internet Explorer on Windows 7 without giving consumers other browser options. Google's situation with Android is similar, given that it owns over 50 percent of the smartphone market. However, consumers have realistic options to Android, like iOS, Windows Phone and Blackberry, so according to US law, regulators may not have a case. For now, the FTC and DoJ have reached a "clearance agreement," that lets the FTC take charge of the query.

Two large regulatory bodies -- the FTC and European Commission -- are now investigating Google's Android practices.

The proceedings may never amount to anything, however. In fact, the FTC launched a similar probe into Google's search business in 2013, but elected to not bring any charges. The FTC was heavily criticized for that decision, especially after it accidentally posted a document leaking the names of the complainants in the case. This time, however, the FTC and European Commission are investigating Google at the same time, though not exactly for the same things -- so it could get awkward if they arrive at different decisions. There's no word about the investigation yet from Google or the FTC, but Engadget has reached out for more information.

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