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What the EU’s Google anti-trust investigation means for Android

The European Commission says bundling certain Google apps into Android could be illegal

Google, investigation, unfair practise, European Commission, Android, competition

The European Commission yesterday stated that they had begun an investigation into Google to find out if they have breached competition laws in their relationship with the Android operating platform.

This investigation has three main points, all related to whether Google is unfairly using its position to establish itself ahead of its rivals.

In an official memo, the Commission says it is looking into whether the pre-installation of Google apps, such as Maps and Chrome, on Android smartphones has ‘illegally hindered the development and market access of rival mobile applications or services.’

Its second point asks if Google has acted illegally in preventing ‘smartphone and tablet manufacturers who wish to install Google’s applications and services on some of their Android devices from developing and marketing modified and potentially competing versions of Android on other devices.’

Finally it will investigate whether ‘Google has illegally hindered the development and market access of rival applications and services by tying or bundling certain Google applications and services distributed on Android devices with other Google applications.’

The commission is essentially trying to discover if Google has abused its position as the driving force behind the Android platform to promote its own products ahead of others and stop them being able to compete.

Google has stoutly defended its position on its official blog, saying that Google’s development of the free open source Android platform has given users more choice than ever before and driven down prices. It also makes the point that ‘in comparison to Apple—the world’s most profitable (mobile) phone company—there are far fewer Google apps pre-installed on Android phones than Apple apps on iOS devices’.

However, the counter argument to that is that Apple is making their own phones on their own system, so they have every right to include Apple apps whereas insisting their own products go on other company’s phones could be seen as bullying the system.

This investigation could potentially result in a record fine for Google if they are found guilty of any of the above counts, but for Android users there is the potential for Google apps to no longer be pre-installed on their devices.