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Russia accuses Google of not playing fair on mobile

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Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) today announced a ruling in the case against Google’s Android operating system, originally filed by competing search engine Yandex.

The complaint, filed in February this year, said Google was using its dominant position in the mobile market to stifle competition of user-centric services such as search, maps, and email.

FAS appears to agree, with a guilty verdict cast down on Google earlier this week. The Russian authority has 10 business days to issue a full ruling, including Google’s charges and what it has to do to continue operating in Russia.

Google said it hasn’t received the ruling, but said “When we do we will study it and determine our next steps.”

Google’s current process for Android is “all-or-nothing”, either you take all of Google’s services, which includes the Google Play store, or you use a degraded bunch of apps from the Android Open Source Platform.

For most providers, the option is clear, but manufacturers and services are becoming increasingly annoyed by Google’s approach. The Google Play store is necessary for mobile, but most manufacturers would happily remove over half of the other services that come alongside it, if they had the choice.

Russian manufacturers tried to push Yandex as the default search engine, but were forced by Google to swap, despite over 80 percent of Russians using Yandex as their default search provider.

“Although the European Commission has already begun a formal investigation in relation to these same practices, Russia is the first jurisdiction to have officially recognized these practices as anti-competitive,” a Yandex spokeswoman said. “We believe the FAS’s decision will serve to restore competition on the market.”

Google already removed all engineers out of Russia, after the government announced plans to keep all information on Russian users stored on government owned servers. By having no physical presence in the country, Google managed to avoid the request for information.

However, Russia is still a large market in which Google would like to continue working. It puts the company in an awkward position, where it may need to accept the terms and allow Yandex to be preinstalled by carriers and manufacturers in Russia. This could cause a knock-on effect, where manufacturers in other countries ask why they aren’t receiving the same privileges.

While this wouldn’t be bad for the industry, it would remove Google’s ability to push its own services above all others on Android.

Google faces similar charges in Europe, after the European Commission announced its second antitrust lawsuit against the search giant. Android will be included in this lawsuit and may be Google’s downfall, since they claim it is an open-source platform. In the U.K., Google also received negative press for skipping corporation tax, forcing U.K. Chancellor George Osborne to announce the Google tax for multinational corporations.

Apple’s own mobile platform, iOS, might remove some preinstalled services in the near future. In an interview earlier this week, CEO Tim Cook said the company is looking into ways to remove those services or not have them preinstalled.

This would allow a more open arrangement of apps for the end user. Instead of being forced to keep Apple Music or Gmail on the device, users can swap for their personal preference, without having to make enough room for both apps.

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