This Week's Legal Ups and Downs for Google - The UpStream

This Week's Legal Ups and Downs for Google

posted Saturday Feb 21, 2015 by Scott Ertz

This Week's Legal Ups and Downs for Google

For the past few years, Google has faced stiff opposition from governments all over the world. They have gotten themselves in trouble with France, the European Union, and most of the world. They even have a number of antitrust suits, particularly in the United States and the EU.

Those troubles got a little worse this week when Russia opened an antitrust investigation into the search company. Prompted by a complaint from Russian search provider Yandex, the investigation will look into whether or not Google overstepped its bounds in including its own services in builds of Android, rather than letting users choose for themselves. While manufacturers are able to make changes to the default content provided on their phones, Google has emphasized their existence with continued rules for usage.

Yandex claims that, by including their own services on Android, Google is hurting competition in the country. In the past year, Yandex has seen their Android search percentage drop from 52 to 44 percent. This case mimics what happened to Microsoft in Europe when Internet Explorer became an integral part of the operating system. Mozilla argued that, by including the browser, it encouraged people to not use other options. After adding in a mandated browser selection in Europe, the usage numbers changed very little, and the mandate has now lapsed without any suggestion of reinstatement.

If the details of this case sound familiar, it's because they are. In fact, the investigation is nearly identical to the US case, in which the Federal Trade Commission investigated Google's promotion of their own products and services over others. The US case is significantly farther along, having already headed to court. The results have gone a different way for the company here, however, as a federal judge tossed the case this week.

The consumers who filed the suit were hoping to turn this case into a class action suit, alleging that by requiring manufacturers to offer Google apps by default in their Android devices have caused prices to be higher due to eliminated competition. For example, we have seen Yahoo purchase the rights to be the default search provider for Firefox. Under the same theory, Yahoo or Microsoft could pay Samsung to offer their services instead of Google's. Included by default could be Bing as search, Outlook as email, even Cortana for voice recognition, for a fee. Those fees could help offset the cost of a new handset, possibly bringing a flagship handset under $199 activated at launch.

The plaintiffs have 3 weeks to amend their complaints, but it is unlikely that they will be able to come up with a complaint that will stick. As it stands, it is likely that the Samsung Galaxy S6 will likely include Microsoft apps, rather than Samsung or Google's own services. Because of this move, proving damages will be difficult for the plaintiffs. It will also mean more competition for Google in their own marketplace, which is something that Android needs for it to evolve.


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