Turkey Is Latest to Investigate Google's Android Bundling Requirements

The investigation examines a Google requirement that Android handset makers install Google apps if they want to preinstall Google Play on their devices.

The government in Turkey has become the latest to open an investigation into Google’s business practices. The Turkish Competition Authority on Monday said it will examine whether Google’s application bundling requirements for Android handset makers are consistent with the country’s fair competition rules.

The decision to open the investigation follows a reassessment of a complaint over the issue that had been filed against Google in 2015. At that time, the Competition Authority examined Google’s activities in Turkey and determined that an investigation was not necessary.

But an appeal of that determination and a subsequent ruling on that appeal by an administrative court in Ankara, Turkey, prompted the decision to launch an investigation now, the Competition Authority said in a statement.

The statement does not offer any details on what specifically caused the Competition Authority to reverse its earlier decision not to investigate Google. Neither does it identify the company that filed the original complaint against Google in 2015.

However, a report in the New York Times identified Russian search engine company Yandex as the entity that had sought the antitrust investigation in Turkey.

A Google spokeswoman said the company will cooperate with the investigation.

“We are aware of the Competition Authority’s investigation and will work co-operatively with them to explain how Android enables competition and innovation, offering consumers better mobile devices at a range of prices around the world,” she said in a statement.

The investigation involves a Google practice that requires Android handset manufacturers to install a set of Google applications including Search if they want to preinstall Google Play on their devices. Yandex has claimed the bundling requirement makes it much harder for other mobile application makers to get their own competing applications on Android handsets.

The company has accused Google of using its enormous market presence to unfairly shut the door on competition.

Yandex has already prevailed on the issue in Russia. The country’s Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) last August hit Google with a $6.8 million fine after finding the company had broken Russia’s fair competition laws with its Android bundling practices. A Moscow court shortly thereafter rejected a Google appeal of that fine and upheld the decision of the FAS.

The European Commission too is investigating Google over the same matter following what it has said are complaints from numerous companies about the bundling practice.

Google maintains that the bundling requirement does not preclude others from getting handset makers to install their own apps as well. Google has noted that the company in no way compels Android users to use its apps and has always given them the freedom to uninstall Google’s applications at any time if they do not wish to use them.

Google has also described the Android bundling concerns in Europe as stemming from an incomplete understanding of the competition the company faces in the mobile space. In a blog last November, Google General Counsel Kent Walker noted how the EU investigation appeared to be incorrectly based on the notion that Apple and Google are not rivals, when in fact the entire marketplace considers them as such.

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.