Report: FTC Extends Google Android Antitrust Probe

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The Federal Trade Commission has reportedly extended its probe into Google's Android business.

Last year, the FTC reportedly opened an investigation into whether the search giant uses its mobile operating system to stifle competition. Now, as The Wall Street Journal reports, FTC staffers are moving ahead with that probe, requesting data from at least two companies in hopes of gathering additional information.

The moves comes just a week after the European Commission formally filed charges against Google for anti-competitive behavior related to the Android platform, and the FTC reportedly wants to access some of the EU's evidence.

At issue is Google's policy of requiring phone makers releasing Android devices to either bundle all or none of Google's apps (Chrome Browser, Google Play, YouTube, etc.). Google would prefer that its Android partners pre-load Google apps on their devices, of course, but they are not required to do so. If they don't, opting for the customizable Android Open Source Platform (AOSP), they can't mix and match pre-loaded apps (Search app from Google, app store from Amazon, for example). It's an all or nothing deal.

The practice has reportedly been a point of contention between Google and Samsung, one of the biggest Android device manufacturers.

Last week, Google touted the "careful way" it designed Android so that it is "good for competition and for consumers."

"Anyone can use Android without Google," Kent Walker, the company's general counsel, wrote in a blog post, arguing that rival Amazon does the same thing.

The FTC declined to comment on the reports; Google did not immediately respond to PCMag's request for comment. As the Journal notes, an investigation does not actually mean the FTC will find Google guilty of market abuse; the EU is often more strict when it comes to these things.

Russia last fall found Google guilty of abusing its dominant market position via app-bundling. In the US, a California district court dismissed a similar case in February.

The EU is also probing Google's favorable treatment of its comparison shopping services, as well as its desktop search practices. In 2013, the FTC found that Google did not unfairly manipulated its search results to highlight its own products and demote competing firms.

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