Having only just received formal charges from the European Commission’s antitrust investigation, Google’s parent company Alphabet now appears to be under closer scrutiny from the US’ Federal Trade Commission as well. Sources close to the regulator suggest that the investigator has met with several companies to gather complaints about Android. The FTC is examining very similar issues to the European Commission, which mainly revolve around Google’s grip over its Android operating system and if any of its practises constitute anti-competitive behaviour.
According to sources familiar with the matter, the FTC is particularly interested in Google’s arrangements with device manufacturers and wireless carriers which ensure that they provide its search engine and other services out of the box. App developers and other technology companies have complained that Google’s rules around Android apps and its store services are preventing them from competing with the search giant. The FTC has also previously looked into whether or not Google’s search results unfairly favoured its own products and services, but decided against filing a lawsuit back in 2013.
The investigators have not reached any conclusions about the case yet, so the FTC has not even decided whether or not it could take legal action against Google. The sources suggest that the FTC is interested in some of the evidence that has been collected in the European case. Last week, the European Commission launched formal proceedings against Google, accusing it of engaging in anticompetitive behaviour within the Android ecosystem.
Even so, there are no guarantees that the FTC will reach the same conclusions as the European investigation, as the continent’s antitrust rules are slightly different and offer additional powers to tackle and fine offending companies. Last week, Canadian regulators found that Google had not violated their competition laws, despite looking at similar evidence to that seen by the FTC and EU reglators over the multiyear investigation.
Alphabet looks to be facing another tough year of legal duelling ahead. Neither the FTC nor Alphabet has commented on the matter.