Google faces another antitrust complaint in Europe

The Open Internet Project has thrown its weight behind charges that Google is abusing its dominance of the smartphone operating system market

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Credit: Magdalena Petrova

Another day, another antitrust action against Google: On Monday, the Open Internet Project filed a new complaint with the European Union's top competition authority, charging the search giant with abusing its dominant position in the market for smartphone software.

It was in 2014 that the OIP filed its first complaint against Google, contributing to a European Commission investigation into the company's search services that began in 2010.

Since then, the OIP has gained 20 new members from ICOMP, the Initiative for a Competitive Online Marketplace. OIP is now led by the chairmen of French search engine Qwant and Hot-Maps.com, an online mapping company the main activity of which seems to be complaining about Google. Its other members include publishing companies Axel Springer, Hubert Burda Media, TV network ProSiebenSat.1, mapping companies Evermaps and Mappy, stock photo libraries Getty Images and CEPIC, and football's Premier League, among others.

OIP's latest complaint concerns Google's Android OS and related mobile apps and services, which coincidentally were also the target of a renewed antitrust investigation announced by the Turkish Competition Board on Monday.

The OIP complaint, filed Monday, accuses Google of abusing its dominant position by imposing restrictions on Android device manufacturers and mobile network operators, aiming to preserve and strengthen its dominance in general internet search, the organization said Tuesday.

Among the practices OIP complained about are Google's requirement that smartphone manufacturers wanting to use Android pre-install and place prominently an entire suite of Google’s own apps and services, and set Google Search as the default search engine, according to a summary of the complaint provided by lawyers acting for OIP.

OIP called on the European Commission to take interim measures against Google in the smartphone market, and also in that for online search and comparison shopping, the target of its previous complaint.

The organization accused Google of employing delaying tactics and trying to blur the lines on what exactly constitutes comparison shopping. Google portrays its Shopping service as just one of hundred of European comparison shopping tools, OIP said, adding that in its view only seven or eight of those companies actually compete with Google, and they have all filed complaints against Google.

The European Commission excluded Amazon.com from its analysis of the market under consideration, and OIP said that Google is challenging this analysis only in order to gain more time.

Time, OIP said, is on the side of big companies like Google when it comes to antitrust investigations. It wants the rules changed so that the Commission can take interim measures in competition cases, and to shorten what it sees as excessively long legal procedures.
"About 30 complaints show various abuses by Google, many since ten years. While the Commission has been investigating, small and medium size companies in Europe are still suffering and dying under the dominance of Google," said Michael Weber, co-president of OIP and president of Hot-Map, via email.

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