A group of companies has called on the European Commission to launch an antitrust probe into Google's dominance of Internet usage on Android-powered mobile devices. Google’s rival, Microsoft, has led the complaint.
The complaint comes from the group FairSearch, an initiative of 17 companies including Microsoft Corp., Nokia Corp., Oracle Corp., Expedia and TripAdvisor.
The group claims that Google is acting unfairly by requiring device makers using its free Android operating system to bundle an entire suite of Google services to ensure they can include "must-have" apps, such as Google Maps and YouTube.
"We are asking the commission to move quickly and decisively to protect competition and innovation in this critical market," said Thomas Vinje, Brussels-based lawyer for the group.
Google's Android smartphone operating system has the largest market share worldwide, accounting for 70 percent at end-2012, while it had 96 percent of mobile phone search advertising. Advertising is the main way the company makes its money.
Android is followed by Apple's iOS system, which runs the iPhone and the iPad. BlackBerry, Microsoft's Windows and others trail far behind.
"Google is using its Android mobile operating system as a Trojan horse to deceive partners, monopolize the mobile marketplace and control consumer data," Vinje said.
The European Commission, the 27-nation bloc's executive arm and antitrust authority, must now decide to take up the case or drop it.
Google's antitrust woes
The US company is already under investigation by Brussels for practices related to its dominance of the Internet search market.
That probe, launched in 2010, alleges that Google unfairly favors its own services in its Internet search results, which has a near-monopoly in Europe.
Google has proposed a list of remedies to address the commission's concerns and achieve a settlement. The suggested remedies are currently being examined.
Google and Microsoft face off
Historically, the EU Commission has often taken a harder line with US tech companies than the country's own Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department.
Last year, Google grouped 60 privacy policies from around the world into one universal document, allowing the company to track users more closely to develop targeted advertising.
Last week, six European countries, including Germany and France, launched legal action against Google in a bid to get the company to tighten these privacy settings, which watchdogs believe violate EU privacy regulations.
Meanwhile, Google rival Microsoft launched the third phase in a 5-month-old marketing campaign on Tuesday that the company mockingly calls "Scroogled."
The online, television and print ads depict Google as a deceitful company more interested in profits and power than protecting people's privacy and providing unbiased search results.
hc/jm (AFP, AP)