Consumer Watchdog Urges Federal Trade Commission To File Antitrust Charges Against Google Over Android Operating System Abuses

SANTA MONICA, CA – Consumer Watchdog today urged the Federal Trade Commission to file antitrust charges against Alphabet Inc.’s Google for using its monopoly power over the Android operating system to stifle competition and unfairly drive consumers to its own services.

The call from the nonprofit, nonpartisan public interest group came after the European Commission filed formal charges in its Android antitrust case against the Internet giant.  The Commission said in its statement of objections that its preliminary view was “that the company has, in breach of EU antitrust rules, abused its dominant position by imposing restrictions on Android device manufacturers and mobile network operators.”

“Google engages in exactly the same anti-competitive, unfair and abusive practices in the United States,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project Director. “Our antitrust enforcers need to step up and do their job instead of letting the Europeans do it for them.”

Shortly after the European investigation was opened last April there were news reports that the FTC was also looking in Google’s practices with the Android operating system.

About 80 percent of mobile devices in the world operate on the open-source Android system, which Google licenses to manufacturers. The Commission said Google violates antitrust law by:

•    requiring manufacturers to pre-install Google Search and Google’s Chrome browser and requiring them to set Google Search as default search service on their devices, as a condition to license certain Google proprietary apps;
•    preventing manufacturers from selling smart mobile devices running on competing operating systems based on the Android open source code;
•    giving financial incentives to manufacturers and mobile network operators on condition that they exclusively pre-install Google Search on their devices.

The FTC investigated Google’s search practices, but closed that case in 2013. The European Commission is pressing forward with its search case. Consumer Watchdog noted Google spent $16.66 million on federal lobbying in 2015.

“Google is well connected at the highest levels of government and throws its money around,” said Simpson. “But our antitrust enforcers can’t let that sway them.  They’ve got the facts and need to act.”

European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said: “A competitive mobile internet sector is increasingly important for consumers and businesses in Europe. Based on our investigation thus far, we believe that Google’s behavior denies consumers a wider choice of mobile apps and services and stands in the way of innovation by other players, in breach of EU antitrust rules. These rules apply to all companies active in Europe. Google now has the opportunity to reply to the Commission’s concerns.”

View the European Commission’s news release here:

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Published by John M. Simpson

John M. Simpson is a leading voice on technological privacy and stem cell research issues. His investigations this year of Google’s online privacy practices and book publishing agreements triggered intense media scrutiny and federal interest in the online giant’s business practices. His critique of patents on human embryonic stem cells has been key to expanding the ability of American scientists to conduct stem cell research. He has ensured that California’s taxpayer-funded stem cell research will lead to broadly accessible and affordable medicine and not just government-subsidized profiteering. Prior to joining Consumer Watchdog in 2005, he was executive editor of Tribune Media Services International, a syndication company. Before that, he was deputy editor of USA Today and editor of its international edition. Simpson taught journalism a Dublin City University in Ireland, and consulted for The Irish Times and The Gleaner in Jamaica. He served as president of the World Editors Forum. He holds a B.A. in philosophy from Harpur College of SUNY Binghamton and was a Gannett Fellow at the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Hawaii. He has an M.A. in Communication Management from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication.

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