Google hits back at EU antitrust charges... again

 
Lynsey Barber
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Brussels claims Google's Android operating system is anti-competitive (Source: Getty)

Google has hit back against the EU watchdog for a third time, this time over claims that its Android operating system is anti-competitive, saying it is the most "open, flexible, and differentiated of the mobile computing platforms".

The US tech giant has filed a response to charges by the European Competition Commission accusing it of "implementing a strategy" that favoured its own search products on smartphones.

In a response to the EU's statement of objectives raised earlier this year, Google said the commission is misunderstanding the smartphone landscape by thinking that Apple's iOS is not a competitor.

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"First, the Commission’s case is based on the idea that Android doesn’t compete with Apple’s iOS. We don’t see it that way. We don’t think Apple does either. Or phone makers. Or developers. Or users," said Google's general counsel Kent Walker in a blog post.

"In fact, 89 per cent of respondents to the Commission’s own market survey confirmed that Android and Apple compete. To ignore competition with Apple is to miss the defining feature of today’s competitive smartphone landscape."

Concerns were also raised that the watchdog was underestimating how important it was that the operating systems were not fragmented which would make it harder for developers to work with, saying that they "work with hardware makers to establish a minimum level of compatibility among Android devices".

"The Commission’s proposal risks making fragmentation worse, hurting the Android platform and mobile phone competition," said Walker.

Competition chief Margrethe Vestager believes Google broke competition rules by requiring other smartphone makers to pre-install Google's search and browser apps and that it also stopped them from selling devices running on competing operating systems. She also claims that they were handed "financial incentives" by Google to put only Google's search on devices.

Google also responded, saying manufacturers are not obligated to put Google's apps on their devices, "But we do offer manufacturers a suite of apps so that when you buy a new phone you can access a familiar set of basic services." Walker added that consumers could "swipe away" any of the apps at any time.

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And making a final point, Google said that having Google search and its app store Google Play pre-installed was part of the reason it was able to give Android away for free.

"This free distribution is an efficient solution for everyone — it lowers prices for phone makers and consumers, while still letting us sustain our substantial investment in Android and Play," he said.

The tech giant last week responded to two other separate charges from the EU in relation to its shopping and Adsense products and has been granted several extensions to give them more time to respond to all three.

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