Google faces Russian antitrust complaint over Android app bundling

Google should stop mandatory bundling of its own services with Android, Russian search engine Yandex said in the complaint

Russian search engine Yandex has accused Google of illegally favoring its own services by forcing Android device manufacturers to install its own apps and exclude apps from competitors.

Yandex has filed a complaint with the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) asking the authority to investigate Google for possible violations of the Russian antitrust law, it said Wednesday.

The company alleged that Google breaks the law when it obliges device manufacturers who want to install the Google Play app store to also pre-install an entire suit of Google services including maps and email, and to set Google as the default search engine. In addition to that, device manufacturers are increasingly prohibited from installing any services from Google's competitors on their devices, including apps and services from Yandex, the company said.

Yandex wants the antitrust authority to force Google to unbundle Android from Google search and its other services. "We believe that device manufacturers should have a choice as to which search provider to set as the default or which services to have pre-installed on the device. Google should not prevent manufacturers from pre-installing competitor apps," said Yandex in an emailed statement.

The company decided to file the complaint after smartphone vendors Prestigio, Fly and Explay told Yandex that they would no longer be able to pre-install Yandex services on Android devices because Google demanded they stop doing so. Chances are high that Google will continue with this practice, harming not only Yandex but other services competing with Google as well as device manufacturers and, ultimately, the Android user, Yandex said.

Android is installed on 86 percent of Russian smartphones, according to Yandex, but while the openness and the open-source roots of the system have helped Android become popular, that openness is now a thing of the past because of Google's bundling practices, Yandex said.

Google declined to comment.

Google's bundling of services with Android has also attracted attention form the European Commission, which last year started a preliminary investigation into the Android ecosystem. The Commission has sent out questionnaires to phone vendors and app developers using Android, including Yandex, in an effort to find out whether Google requires companies to agree to not pre-install apps, products or services on mobile devices that directly compete with Google services.

Russia's antitrust authority has still to decide whether it will open an investigation, Yandex said. The authority did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, online payment issues as well as EU technology policy and regulation for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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