A group representing Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), Expedia Inc. (EXPE) and Nokia Oyj (NOK1V) filed an antitrust complaint against Google Inc. (GOOG) over its Android operating system as part of a campaign to force the European Union to fine or alter the conduct of the owner of the world’s largest search engine.
FairSearch, a group of 17 technology and search companies, said the EU should investigate Google’s “deceptive conduct to lockout competition” in the mobile market with a goal to “cement its control over consumer Internet data for online advertising as usage shifts to mobile.”
“Google is using its Android mobile operating system as a ‘Trojan Horse’ to deceive partners, monopolize the mobile marketplace, and control consumer data,” said Thomas Vinje, a lawyer in Brussels who represents the FairSearch industry group. “Failure to act will only embolden Google to repeat its desktop abuses of dominance as consumers increasingly turn to a mobile platform dominated by Google’s Android.”
The EU is already investigating Google’s search business and the Mountain View, California-based company’s rivals have made nearly weekly entreaties to the EU to take some action. TripAdvisor Inc. (TRIP) and Expedia led a group in March that wrote to EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, and Microsoft days later sent the EU a study questioning Google’s search results.
“We continue to work cooperatively with the European Commission,” Al Verney, a Brussels-based spokesman for Google, said in an e-mail today.
Antoine Colombani, a spokesman for Almunia, declined to comment.
According to FairSearch, Google’s Android system was used as a smartphone operating system in 70 percent of handset units shipped at the end of 2012. Google also dominates mobile search advertising with 96 percent of the market, said FairSearch, citing eMarketer.
Microsoft already has an antitrust complaint against Google pending with the Brussels-based commission, alleging the company promotes its own specialist search services, copies rivals’ travel and restaurant reviews, and discriminates against rivals.
The U.S. ended an investigation into Google’s search business in January, saying there was no evidence that the company’s actions harmed consumers. The commission, the EU’s antitrust regulator, is seeking a deal with Google to end its more than two-year-old probe into antitrust concerns with the company’s search business.
Almunia last year asked Google to give him a detailed offer to address allegations that it copies rivals’ travel and restaurant reviews, and has agreements with websites and software developers that stifle competition in the advertising industry.
After receiving Google’s settlement offer in January, Almunia said he hoped to check it with rivals and customers “in the coming months” and finalize it later this year.
Almunia said in an interview with the New York Times published yesterday that he expects new proposals from Google this week to help with concerns over its search practices and any changes the company proposed would be submitted to competitors for comment.
Almunia said the company needed to offer the commission a solution where choices between Google-branded search results and those of its competitors were clearly visible within the search engine both on desktop computers and on mobile devices, the Times reported.
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