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EU accuses Google of antitrust practices

EU throws antitrust charges at Google

The European Commission has accused Google of anti-competitive charges relating to its Android mobile phone operating system.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the commission – which is the executive arm of the EU - said it had informed Google that it believed the company had breached antitrust rules in the region and "abused its dominant position by imposing restrictions on Android device manufacturers and mobile network operators."

The commission said about 80 percent of smart mobile devices in Europe run on Android.

In a press conference Wednesday, European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said that Google had been sent a statement and would be given a chance to respond.

Vestager said Google's practices with Android could have a potential impact on a large number of companies.

"What we see is not only a restricting effect on search but also stifling competition and may be restricting innovation in the wider space," she said.

"And that is very important because a very strong motivation to innovators is that they can present their product to consumers. If that is not possible, then why bother?"

Vestager defended accusations that she was attacking U.S. firms in a bid to defend European firms.

"It is not our job to defend companies; it is our job to defend competition. That has been our job as long as can be remembered, no matter the flag of the country," she added.

In Wednesday's official "statement of objections", the commission alleged that Google has breached EU antitrust rules by:

  • Requiring manufacturers to pre-install Google Search and Google's Chrome browser and requiring them to set Google Search as default search service on their devices, as a condition to license certain Google proprietary apps.
  • Preventing manufacturers from selling smart mobile devices running on competing operating systems based on the Android open source code.
  • Giving financial incentives to manufacturers and mobile network operators on condition that they exclusively pre-install Google Search on their devices.

Kent Walker, Senior Vice President & General Counsel at Google said Wednesday that Android is in fact good for competition.

"Android has helped foster a remarkable and, importantly, sustainable ecosystem, based on open-source software and open innovation," he said to CNBC by email.

"We look forward to working with the European Commission to demonstrate that Android is good for competition and good for consumers."

Vestager said one reason the commission has not pursued Apple is because, unlike Google, it does not license its operating system to third-party manufacturers.

These EU charges open up a second front in the regulatory battle between the European Commission and Google. The internet giant is already battling EU charges of promoting its own shopping service in Internet searches at the expense of rival products, a case which has dragged on since late 2010.

Reuters contributed to this article.