Mobile

Google gets tough with Turkey, suspends Android services amid regulations fight

Google is halting sales of new Android phones with Google services in Turkey as it continues to work with the government to avoid further violations of the country’s competition laws. Weeks after Turkey’s Competition Authority declared the company exercises an unfair advantage in pushing its own search engine, Google has informed its Turkish partners, including network carriers and phone makers, that it’s suspending Android services in the country.

“In order to immediately operate in a way that is compliant with Turkish law, we’ve informed our business partners that we will not be able to work with them on new Android phones to be released for the Turkish market,” said a Google spokesperson in a statement.

The termination of Google Mobile Services essentially means no new Android phones with Google’s apps and services will be released in Turkey. Existing models on sale and active phones will continue to function normally, however. Without Google’s support on Android phones, companies that would like to sell their Android devices in Turkey would need to jump through significant hoops to get them to market, and they would still be without any Google services, including the Play Store and any Android updates.

Google has been tussling with the Turkish government for a while over anticompetitive. violations. The probe was kicked off when Russia-based search engine company Yandex filed a complaint against Google in Turkey. Months later, in September of last year, the decision was made in Yandex’s favor. Google was fined $17.4 million and asked to re-engineer its software to add a default search engine choice.

On November 7, Turkey’s anticompetitive authority declared the alterations made by Google were inadequate and fail to fall in line with the board’s demands. In addition to rejecting the proposal, the government imposed an additional penalty on Google of 0.05% of its revenue per day and offered a 60-day period to challenge the ruling.

Fast-forward to the present day and Google has pulled the rug from under its Android partners in Turkey. Furthermore, it’€™s hounding Android partners in Turkey to “pressure Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan and the head of the competition authority via telephone and e-mail.” By terminating services altogether, Google is likely equipping a scare-tactic hoping to threaten Turkish companies that predominantly rely on Android for business and push the local government up against the wall through them.

It’s unclear whether Google plans to further negotiate with the local authorities before resuming services again and appears to have backed out to evade the daily penalties. Google may be setting a worrisome precedent in abandoning a relatively smaller market instead of complying with competition laws.

“We understand that this creates difficulties for consumers, manufacturers, app developers and carriers in Turkey, and expect to reach a resolution with the TCA soon,” commented Google in a statement sent to Digital Trends.

The move is also emblematic of what anticompetitive laws stand for in the first place. In Turkey, Google is capitalizing on its dominant position to stand its ground. When the search engine company found itself in a similar spot in an EU and Russian investigation, it ended up complying and offered users an option to pick the default search engine. Even in this instance, Google is set to profit by auctioning off slots for search engine alternatives in the Android platform.

In the U.S., struggles with the power of Big Tech companies have been under sharp scrutiny, though government bodies like the Federal Communications Commission have recently allowed such large entities to merge and grow, despite concerns from consumer advocates. Since Turkey, unlike Europe, only represents a minuscule percentage of the total Android users, Google has the upper hand here and the luxury to push back for a more appealing compromise.

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