- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Russian officials say Google has violated an antitrust law that prohibits companies from “abusing market dominance” by favoring its own applications on Android devices.

The Kremlin’s Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) said Monday that the tech titan has run afoul of a federal “Protection of Competition” provision because smartphones powered by its Android operating system are sold pre-configured to prioritize Google-owned apps such as Maps, YouTube, Gmail and its namesake search engine.

FAS said it will release its formal ruling within 10 days, and administrative proceedings are scheduled to begin as soon as October. Representatives for Google said Monday that they were reserving comments until the findings were made available in full.

Yandex, a Russian-owned and -operated search engine, filed the complaint against Google in February. A second claim of “unfair competition practices” was rejected by the regulators.

Ochir Mandzhikov, the director of public relations for Yandex, said in a statement when the complaint was filed that “device manufacturers should have a choice as to which search provider to set as the default or which services to have pre-installed on the device.” A spokesman for the Russian site said this week that the FAS ruling “will help restore competition on the market.”

Although Google remains the preferred search engine throughout much of the world, Yandex retained a 57 percent market share with regards to Russian searches as of the second quarter of 2015. Android remains the dominant mobile OS in Russia, however, accounting for roughly three-quarters of all mobile sales in the country as of July, according to industry statistics.

Senior officials in Russia told CNN that Google could be ordered to “adjust contracts with vendors of mobile devices,” and risks being fined 15 percent of its local income for the antitrust violations. If Google is forced to lift requirements that keep smartphone vendors from pre-installing non-Google apps on handsets, then future sales of Android devices could lend to a surge in popularity among the mobile programs offered by competitors, including Yandex.

Google faces a similar antitrust claim in the European Union concerning its practice of bundling its own apps on Android devices. Earlier this month, regulators in India said they too had found faults with Google practices that may amount to antitrust violations, according to reports.

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