Google Inc.’s Seoul office was raided by South Korea’s antitrust regulator as part of a probe into whether the owner of the world’s largest search engine unfairly blocked competitors in the mobile-search market, a person familiar with the investigation said.
The on-site investigation at Google’s office resulted from April complaints filed by NHN Corp. and Daum Communications Corp., South Korea’s two largest Internet search companies, said the person, who declined to be identified because the probe isn’t public. Robin Moroney, a Tokyo-based spokesman for Google, and Kwag Se Boong, a Seoul-based spokesman for the Fair Trade Commission, declined to say whether the raid took place.
South Korea joins the U.S. and some European countries in increasing scrutiny of Google, which owns Android, the most used operating system for smartphones. The company has denied the claims by NHN and Daum, which together control more than 90 percent of South Korean Web queries, that Google blocks carriers and manufacturers from embedding search applications in Android devices.
“We will work with the FTC to address any questions they may have about our business,” Moroney said in an e-mailed statement today. “Android is an open platform. We do not require carriers or manufacturers to include Google Search or Google applications on Android-powered devices.”
Reuters reported on the raid yesterday, citing an unidentified person familiar with the matter.
Google has prevented South Korean phone manufacturers from including Web search applications made by other companies by delaying Android certification for handset makers that do so, Seongnam-based NHN said in April.
Daum learned about Google’s practices while trying to have its applications installed and has evidence to prove its claims, the Seoul-based company said in April.
Google also previously faced scrutiny from regulators in other Asian countries including China and Australia, as the U.S. company expands its operations in the region. The Chinese government objected to Google’s practice of automatically redirecting users of the Google.cn search-engine service to an unfiltered site in Hong Kong, the company said in June 2010.
Google’s Internet license in China was renewed by the government after a regular annual review, Wang Lijian, a spokesman at the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, said today.
Australian police last year probed Google’s Street View mapping service for possible breaches of data-security laws.
Google’s Seoul office has been searched by the police at least twice since August last year amid investigations into whether the company illegally collected wireless Internet data and location information from Android smartphone users.
Android-based smartphones account for about 43 percent of the global market as of the second quarter, according to researcher Gartner Inc. Apple Inc.’s iPhone controlled about 18 percent.