It sounds like Europe is preparing for an epic legal showdown with Google.
Europe’s antitrust chief said on Monday that she was looking closely at Google’s deals with phone makers and operators, concerned that conditions related to its popular Android mobile operating system may be restricting competition. And that investigation is expected to kick off at some point this week.
The comments by European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager come amid signs that she could charge Google with anti-competitive behavior, a year after she accused the company of favoring its shopping service in delivering search results at the expense of rivals.
Big companies should not try to protect themselves by holding back innovation, Vestager said.
“That’s why we’re looking closely at Google’s contracts with phone makers and operators which use the Android operating system,” she said at a conference organized by the Dutch competition authority.
“Our concern is that, by requiring phone makers and operators to pre-load a set of Google apps, rather than letting them decide for themselves which apps to load, Google might have cut off one of the main ways that new apps can reach customers.”
In April 2015, the European Commission opened an antitrust investigation into Google’s Android. Android dominates the market in Europe, and there are concerns that Google is abusing that promote its own apps at the expense of competitors, which the company vehemently denies. (There’s also a separate investigation into the Google search engine.)
(Reporting By Foo Yun Chee; editing by Philip Blenkinsop)