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Google fined for breaking Russian antitrust rules with Android

Russian antitrust officials fined Google $6.8 million on Thursday, a relatively small penalty that nevertheless represents the latest in a growing list of global regulatory problems for the American search giant.

Russian authorities ruled last year that Google had abused its market position with Android, its mobile operating system, by favoring some of its digital services over those of rivals, including the Russian company Yandex.

As part of its ruling, the Federation Antimonopoly Service said that Google's rivals had not been able to include their own offerings, like digital maps or search, in the Android operating system that powers a majority of smartphones and other mobile devices in Russia.

Sundar Pichai, CEO, Google
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Sundar Pichai, CEO, Google

In a statement on Thursday, the agency said that Russia's competition rules applied to all companies operating in the country, including foreign ones.

Google denies breaking Russian competition rules. The Silicon Valley company is still appealing the Android case in Russia, which was opened last year after Yandex complained that its services for Android were being treated unfairly.

"We have received notice of the fine from F.A.S. and will analyze closely before deciding our next steps," Google said in a statement on Thursday.

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Google dominates its service areas in much of the world, but it has failed so far to do so in Russia, where Yandex retains more than 50 percent of the market for internet search, according to industry statistics.

While the Russian fine is akin to a rounding error compared with Google's $75 billion in annual revenue, the ruling against Android is the newest setback for the company at a time of mounting global competition investigations into the search giant's activities.

Margrethe Vestager, the European Union's top antitrust official, charged Google in April with unfairly using Android to promote its own services — like Google Maps and Google Search — over those of its rivals.

European Union officials have also charged the company in a separate competition case, accusing it of favoring some of its search services over those of rivals. They filed a third set of charges in July linked to Google search services offered to third-party websites, like newspapers and online retailers.

Google denies wrongdoing in those cases, saying that it competes on equal terms with companies like Yelp and Microsoft, among others. It also says that cellphone makers are free to use Android-based services provided by rivals. Google does not make money directly from licensing the mobile operating system to companies, but it takes a cut from advertisements displayed on online searches.

The company's antitrust woes have also spread to the United States, where the Federal Trade Commission is considering claims that Google's activities linked to Android are uncompetitive. American officials previously investigated whether the company had unfairly favored some of its services over those of rivals within its search engine, but they eventually decided not to bring charges.

And in India, one of Google's fast-growing markets, the national antitrust authority sent the company a report last year outlining its concerns about search dominance and anticompetitive behavior.

The Indian officials suggested that the company was abusing its dominant market position by ranking its services ahead of those of competitors in Google search, according to people with knowledge of the report, which has not been made public.