Margrethe Vestager, the European Union's Commissioner for Competition, is reportedly set to broaden her ongoing investigation of Google's alleged anti-competitive behavior in the EU.
Politico on Friday cited three investigators involved in the case as saying that Vestager's office is readying charges against Google over the company's practices with regard to its Android mobile operating system.
The concerns apparently have to do with how Google requires Android handset makers to bundle certain applications like Gmail and Maps on their systems, to the detriment of others with competing software products
If true, the charges would open another front in Google's longstanding battle with EU authorities over how it conducts business there. Vestager's office is currently investigating complaints from several companies about Google using its search engine dominance to promote results from its own Google Shopping Website while downplaying links to other similar price comparison sites.
Several companies in the EU, including publishing houses, have alleged that Google is stifling competition by taking advantage of its enormous search engine market share. Vestager's office served Google with a formal "statement of objections" last year and is currently investigating whether the charges involving Google Shopping represent a breach of EU anti-competition laws.
Google has denied the allegations and said that, if anything, the company's practices with regard to the use of its search engine have only helped rivals rather than hurt them. The company has repeatedly pointed to the multiple vendors and the growth of numerous Websites in all the markets that it competes in, as evidence that it is not killing off competition.
If Vestager does indeed file charges related to Android, she will be following through on something she has said might happen for quite some time. As early as last April, Vestager had said she would look into complaints about Google requiring Android smartphone and tablet makers to bundle certain applications on their devices if they wanted to pre-install Google Play on them.
The complaints have alleged that Google's bundling requirement effectively prevents other developers with similar apps from a shot at having their applications preinstalled on Android handsets.
Google is dealing with a similar issue in Russia. Yandex, the country's largest Internet search engine firm, has demanded that Google unbundle Google Search, Google Maps and a few other applications from the Android software it wants preinstalled on smartphones and tablets sold in Russia. The country's Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) and the Moscow Arbitration Court have already sided at least twice with Yandex on the issue.
Last October, the FAS gave Google one month to drop its Android bundling requirement in Russia or face potential fines after determining that Yandex had raised valid concerns.
Earlier this year, Moscow's Arbitration Court rejected Google's explanation of its Android bundling requirement and upheld the FAS decision. The FAS has said that it is prepared to take administrative action against Google for failure to comply with its ruling. Some have suggested that Google could face potentially stiff fines in Russia over the issue.
Google did not respond immediately to a request for comment on the latest news about Vestager's office planning to charge it with Android-related violations of EU laws.