Russian Regulator: Google Has 1 Month to Drop App-Bundling Policy

Google could face hefty fines if it fails to stop favoring its own apps on Android-powered devices, says Russia's Federal Antimonopoly Service.

Google practices in Russia

Russia's anti-monopoly regulator has given Google one month to comply with an order requiring the company to stop giving preferential treatment to its own apps on Android-powered smartphones and tablets sold in the country.

If Google does not comply by the end of the deadline, the company could be subject to a potentially heavy fine.

Russia's Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) also has launched a formal administrative action against Google over the company's alleged anti-competitive practices in the country, The Wall Street Journal reported Oct. 16. If FAS determines that Google's practices hurt rivals, the company could face fines of up to 15 percent of its Android revenues in Russia.

The FAS ruling stems from a complaint filed earlier this year by Russian search engine firm Yandex that accused Google of unfairly preventing Android devices makers from preinstalling Yandex' apps on their devices. According to Yandex, device makers who want to preinstall Google Play on their phones are required to bundle other Google apps and set Google Search as the default search engine.

Yandex alleged that Google's practice unfairly precluded developers of user-centric apps such as maps, email and search from having their products preinstalled on Android devices.

In its report Oct. 6, The Journal quoted a statement from FAS noting that Google has a month to amend its existing agreements with mobile-device makers in the country and drop the app-bundling requirement.

Google did not respond to an eWEEK request for comment, but The Journal cited a Google spokeswoman in Russia as saying the company would review the ruling before deciding its response. "Device makers are free to use Android with or without Google applications, and consumers have complete freedom to use rival applications," the spokeswoman told The Journal.

Time will tell whether FAS follows through on its threat to impose a hefty fine on Google and, if it does, what the amount will be.

Google faces similar legal troubles in multiple countries. The company faces its biggest hurdle in the European Union where it is under broad scrutiny for anti-competitive behavior. Other countries that have launched similar probes include India, Brazil, Canada and Argentina.

If Google is concerned by the trend, the company has so far not shown it publicly. It has instead defended its practices as being in full compliance with competition laws around the world and appears ready to take on regulators in what could be lengthy and potentially expensive legal battles.

In some cases, the company has simply upped and left rather than comply with local requirements. Last year, for example, Google pulled its Google News operation in Spain just in advance of a copyright law that would have required it to pay publishers a fee for every text snippet used in links to news articles in Google News.

The company last year similarly decided to close its engineering operations in Russia rather than comply with a law that would have required it to store all data that it had on Russian citizens within the country.

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.