U.S. Regulators May Look At Google's Android Business: Report


Just months after Google parent Alphabet was hit with a record fine in Europe over Android mobile operating system practices deemed anti-competitive, U.S. regulators told Congress they could consider opening a similar investigation, according to a report in The New York Post.

Makan Delrahim, the U.S. assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Antitrust Division, at a Senate hearing Wednesday didn't rule out the possibility of an inquiry into Google's Android business, two sources at the hearing told the newspaper, one of whom said the comments "were fairly significant."

Google did not respond to a CRN request for comment by publication time.

[Related: Google And Partners Offer Pre-Configured Android Devices With Zero-Touch Enrollment]

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In July, the European Union's antitrust regulator, the European Commission, stepped up its battle over Google's search engine practices with a $5.05 billion fine against Alphabet.

The Commission said Google was "breaching EU antitrust rules" by imposing "illegal restrictions" on Android device makers and mobile network operators to bolster Google's search engine.

Those practices, going on since 2011, included a requirement that device makers pre-install Google's search app and Chrome browser app in exchange for being able to include access to the Google Play Store on devices, according to the Commission.

The Commission also alleged that Google made payments to device makers and mobile network operators to exclusively pre-install Google's search app—and prevented device makers from using Android versions not approved by Google as a condition of being able to pre-install Google apps.

Roughly 80 percent of devices in Europe run Android, according to the Commission.

In the U.S., Google's mobile OS market share is around 55 percent, according to the Statista, a market research portal.

U.S. regulators gave a hard look at Google's search practices a few years earlier after complaints that search results were biased to give Google an advantage over competitors. The Federal Trade Commission concluded a nearly two-year investigation in 2013 with a unanimous vote not to penalize the company.

But ever since, advocates, rivals and lawmakers have encouraged regulators to take another look at the Mountain View, Calif.-based tech giant.

About a month ago, U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, wrote to FTC Chairman Joseph Simons expressing his concerns about the company.

"In the past, Google has placed restrictions on publishers' displaying search advertisements from its competitors," Hatch wrote. "Google loosened some of those restrictions when faced with antitrust complaints, and the European Commission has said it is monitoring to see if those new restrictions have anticompetitive effects."

Hatch pointed to a segment that aired on the TV news show "60 Minutes" in May alleging "anticompetitive conduct by the company involving search practices."

Two days before Hatch sent that letter, President Trump railed against the company, saying that "Google search results for 'Trump News' shows only the viewing/reporting of Fake News Media. In other words, they have it RIGGED, for me [and] others, so that almost all stories[and] news is BAD. ... This is a very serious situation-will be addressed!"