FairSearch.org has filed a complaint with the European Commission laying out what it sees as Google’s anti-competitive strategy to dominate the mobile marketplace and cement its control over consumer Internet data for online advertising as usage shifts to mobile.
The complaint says Google uses deceptive conduct to lockout competition in mobile. Google’s Android is the dominant smartphone operating system, running in 70 percent of units shipped at the end of 2012, according to Strategy Analytics. Google also dominates mobile search advertising with 96 percent of the market, according to eMarketer.
“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, counsel to the FairSearch coalition. “We are asking the commission to move quickly and decisively to protect competition and innovation in this critical market. 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 operating system.”
FairSearch is an international coalition of 17 specialized search and technology companies whose members include Expedia, Microsoft, Nokia, Oracle, and TripAdvisor.
Google achieved its dominance in the smartphone operating system market by giving Android to device-makers for “free.” Android phone makers who want to include must-have Google apps such as Maps, YouTube, or Play are required to pre-load an entire suite of Google mobile services and to give them prominent default placement on the phone, the complaint says. This disadvantages other providers, charges FairSearch, and puts Google’s Android in control of consumer data on a majority of smartphones shipped today.
The FairSearch complaint comes at a time when users are increasingly switching from desktop to mobile platforms. Mobile Internet usage is expected to overtake desktop usage as soon as 2014, according to MindCommerce.
The European Commission is already considering how to remedy concerns that Google may be abusing its dominance in desktop search advertising, in particular Google’s search bias that favors its own services in search results.
Meanwhile, in April, six European data protection authorities began coordinating efforts to force Google to comply with European Union privacy laws they say Google violated by consolidating its privacy policies. Google paid a record fine to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission in August 2012 to settle charges it gave misleading privacy promises to Safari Internet browser users.
“European consumers deserve a rigorous investigation of Google’s mobile practices, and real protections against further abuses by Google,” said Vinje. “Given Google’s track record of ignoring the law, mobile Internet users should be very concerned.”