Russian Search Firm Accuses Google of Anti-competitive Practices

Google should unbundle search from its other services, Russian search engine firm Yandex says in a familiar refrain.


Google's enormous Internet footprint and influence have increasingly made it the target of numerous disputes overseas involving antitrust matters as well as free speech, privacy and copyright issues. Russian search engine firm Yandex is the latest with a beef against the company.

In a complaint filed with the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service this week, Yandex accused Google of unfairly preventing it from preinstalling services on mobile devices running the Android operating system.

According to Yandex, Google's practice of requiring device manufacturers that want to install Google Play on their devices to also install a whole suite of other services and make Google the default search engine is unfair.

Google and Yandex did not respond to requests for comment. But in a summary of the Russian firm's grievances, obtained by Endgadget, Yandex accused Google of locking in device manufacturers to its Google Play application store and its closed APIs.

"In order to install Google Play on their devices, device manufacturers are required to preinstall the entire suite of Google GMS services, and set Google as the default search," Yandex noted in its summary of the case to Endgadget.

Yandex claimed that in 2014, three smartphone vendors that had been its long-term partners expressed their inability to continue preinstalling Yandex's services on their Android devices because of Google's bundling requirement. "Chances are high that Google will continue this practice," Yandex said in calling for user-centric services such as maps, email and search to be unbundled from the Android OS.

"It is essential to return to a level playing field where competition is over quality of products and services rather than bundling and pre-installation," the company noted in the summary.

This by far isn't the first time that Google has been accused of anti-competitive practices. In Europe and elsewhere, the company has faced numerous complaints about using its search processes unfairly to promote Google's advertisers over those of rivals, downplaying links to rivals on its search engine and various other matters.

Last June, a Portuguese mobile application store vendor accused Google of making it hard for Android users to download and install applications from independent application stores. In its complaint, the vendor claimed that Google creates obstacles for users trying to download applications from outside Google Play. The vendor charged Google with blocking access to its application store for Chrome users.

Proposals to unbundle Google's search engine service from its other services have gained momentum in the European Union in recent months, prompting the U.S. government to step into the fray and caution against a politicization of antitrust probes.

Google's problems overseas don't stop with just the antitrust issues. Several governments within the EU, for instance, want Google to pay publishers copyright fees for using snippets of their text to link to news articles in search engine results. Google has pulled its Google News service from Spain in response to one such dispute.

The company is also engaged in a battle with EU privacy commissioners over the right to be forgotten directive, which requires search engine companies like Google to remove links to articles that are defamatory or incorrect. Google has said it will remove links as required under the directive, but only in search engine results within the EU. Data privacy commissioners want the company to remove links from its main site as well.

In December, Google pulled its engineering staff from Russia over fears that a new law would require it to store all data on Russian citizens on servers inside Russia. With the Yandex complaint, Google has just found itself with another legal battle on its hands in that 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.