It seems that the headlines have been filled with news regarding tech companies and the European Union for the past two weeks. And, lo and behold, Google is in the news… again.
So what is it this time? Antitrust issues. Google has been facing a few of these in a handful of countries especially those in Europe because of the lack of transparency Android offers. This time however, on top of all this, Google now faces problems due to its Google Play policies.
A Portugal based company called Aptoide is filing a complaint with the European Commission against the American giant. Aptoide runs a marketplace for mobile applications. It claims that it cannot submit a fully functional app store on Android devices because of Google’s non-compete clause regarding the Google Play Store. It argues that Google is abusing its dominant position to ensure users do not opt for Google Play rivals. Also, Google has blocked the Aptoide browser on Google Chrome due to constant spam. The Portugal company complains further that users are facing major difficulties in the switch to allow the side loading of apps with newer versions of Android.
This is not the first time Google has been accused of matters of this nature. In 2013, Nokia, Microsoft and a bunch of other companies filed a complaint with the European Commission stating that the way Google uses Android to promote its applications is of an anti-behaviour nature that needs to be stopped. Currently, Android has 72.4% of the smartphone market in Europe making this a very interesting topic indeed.
According to Gigaom, Aptoide has four major complaints – blocking, bundling, installation obstacles and other Google services. Blocking implies that no fully-functional third-party app store can be found in the Play Store. Hence, Aptoide can only be downloaded to a phone via the service’s mobile page and all other app stores in Google Play Store become mere catalogs. Google has also been accused of bundling which basically is that Google Mobile Services (GMS), the suite that Google-ifies an Android phone, is strongly coupled with the Play Store. You can only get full access to other Play Stores through other devices, you can’t do so with Android. The firm claims Google has made it progressively more difficult to install apps from third-party sources and after Android 4.0 “only 20 percent” of users could figure out how to find it. Aptoide claims that Google’s Chrome browser blocked the page for the Aptoide installer on the premise that it was infested with malware. Also, Aptoide says Google is making the inclusion of the Play Store mandatory in its search agreements with carriers.
Although the European Commission has not launched an official investigation into the matter, EU antitrust chief Joaquín Almunia said last month that his agency might consider opening such an investigation. Other individuals in the European Commission have also expressed concerns over the issue. It’s more likely than not that the investigation will happen sooner rather than later if the pressure to do so increases.