Japan’s competition watchdog, the Japan Fair Trade Commission, has taken a significant step in the investigation of Alphabet-owned Google for potential antitrust law violations related to its search practices on mobile platforms. This move is seen as an escalation of regulatory pressure on the U.S. tech giant.
The investigation revolves around allegations that Google entered into agreements with Android smartphone manufacturers, involving the sharing of search ad-related revenue. The catch being that these agreements reportedly contained clauses preventing device manufacturers from installing competing search engines. The regulator is also examining whether Google’s services are given preferential treatment on Android phones.
As part of the ongoing probe, the Japan FTC is actively seeking third-party opinions. These submissions are expected to be received by November 22, providing further insights into the investigation.
In response to these allegations, Google emphasized that Android is an “open-source platform” that has fostered diversity through partnerships with various device manufacturers and partners. The company highlighted the flexibility and choice that Android offers users when it comes to customizing their devices, including browsing and search preferences, as well as app downloads.
It is worth noting that Google’s Android is the world’s most dominant mobile operating system, commanding a substantial 80% share of the smartphone market. This market dominance has prompted scrutiny of some of Google’s business practices related to Android by regulatory bodies across the globe.
Notably, in 2018, the European Union imposed a record 4.34 billion euros ($4.6 billion) fine on Google for alleged abuses of Android’s dominance. The EU contended that Google unfairly promoted its own services by compelling smartphone manufacturers to pre-install Google apps, including Chrome and Search, bundled with its app store, Google Play.
Although Google appealed the decision, the EU court reduced the fine marginally but largely concurred with the regulators’ findings.
Meanwhile, in an ongoing trial, the U.S. Department of Justice has accused Google of violating anti-monopoly laws through exclusive agreements with mobile phone manufacturers and browser makers. These agreements allegedly made Google’s search engine the default option for consumers. This trial represents one of the most significant tech antitrust cases in the United States in decades, underscoring the international attention and regulatory scrutiny surrounding Google’s business practices.