Russia Charges Google With Abusing Market Dominance

Russia joins a growing list of countries with a beef against Google, claiming the company is forcing phone makers to preinstall Google apps on Android smartphones.

Russia's FAS charges Google

Acting on a complaint filed earlier this year by Russian search engine firm Yandex, Russia's Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) this week formally charged Google with violating the country's fair competition laws.

In a statement released Sept. 14, FAS said that an investigation of Yandex's complaints shows that Google is abusing its dominant market position to force phone makers to preinstall Google apps on Android smartphones.

Google's requirement that smartphone vendors mandatorily preinstall Google apps and Google Search on their devices and also give the apps a prominent position on the device home page represents anti-competitive actions under Russian law, the FAS said. The investigation showed that Google also has been prohibiting mobile device vendors from preinstalling applications from others on their Android smartphones, FAS said.

"FAS shall draft a full decision within ten working days and issue a determination to 'Google' to stop abusing dominance and exercise actions aimed at supporting competition," the statement said.

"In particular, FAS can request to adjust contracts with vendors of mobile devices, excluding such Clauses from the agreements that restrict installing applications and services of other developers of such devices," it added.

Google did not respond immediately to a request for comment on the latest development, but a BBC news report quoted a company spokeswoman as saying that Google has not received the ruling formally from Russia authorities yet. The company will determine its next steps after reviewing the formal complaint.

The FAS statement notes that administrative actions against Google could start as soon as October 2015, but does not specify what penalties the company could face if it refuses to comply. According to the BBC, Google could face fines of up to 15 percent of its 2014 revenues in Russia.

For Google, the Russian dispute is the latest in a string of increasingly me-too actions against the company by regulatory authorities around the world.

Just earlier this month, the Competition Commission of India charged Google with abusing its market dominance to rank its own services ahead of others in search results. The charges were based on the commission's investigation of complaints filed by more than two dozen companies, including India's, Flipkart and Nokia's maps division.

In South America, Brazil's antitrust regulator CADE is investigating Google over complaints from others, including Microsoft, that it favors its own products and services in search results. The company faces similar accusations in Canada and Argentina.

Google faces its biggest headache in Europe, where EU's competition commissioner has launched a formal inquiry into the company's business practices following complaints from rivals that are similar to those aired in other countries.

Google, for the most part, has downplayed the investigations and has pledged to work with regulators in each country to address their concerns. Amid the growing number of near identical complaints in different countries, Google has insisted that its practices have not harmed rivals and instead have only helped them by driving more traffic to their sites.

Google's latest trouble in Russia started in February when Yandex claimed Google was preventing it from preinstalling its applications on Android smartphones from multiple vendors.

The company claimed that smartphone makers that wanted to install Google Play on their phones were required to mandatorily also preinstall Google Search and other Google Mobile Services apps. Yandex claimed that this Google bundling requirement forced three long-time partners to stop preinstalling Yandex's apps on their phones.

Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Vijayan is an award-winning independent journalist and tech content creation specialist covering data security and privacy, business intelligence, big data and data analytics.