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What you need to know

  • China could soon begin an antitrust probe into Google.
  • The investigation will look into allegations that the search giant has stifled competition by leveraging the dominance of its Android OS.
  • A final decision on whether Chinese regulators will proceed with a formal investigation could be made next month.

A new report from Reuters suggests China is preparing an antitrust probe into Google, seeking to look into allegations that the search giant has leveraged Android's dominance to stifle its rivals. The news comes as the Trump administration continues to target Chinese companies like Huawei, citing risks to national security.

As per the report, the case was first proposed by Huawei last year and has been submitted to the State Council's antitrust committee for review by the State Administration for Market Regulation. Whether or not the country will proceed with a formal investigation, is likely to be decided as soon as next month. However, sources familiar with the matter have told Reuters that the decision could be influenced by the state of China's relationship with the U.S.

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In case Chinese regulators decide to proceed with a probe, they will likely look at accusations that Google's dominant market position has the potential to cause "extreme damage" to companies like Huawei. They will also look at examples set by antitrust regulators in Europe and India.

The European Union slapped Google with a record $5.1 billion fine in 2018 for imposing restrictions on Android OEMs to cement its search dominance. In India, regulators are looking into allegations that Google abused its market dominance to unfairly promote its mobile payments app.

What remains unclear, however, is what Google services the potential probe would be centered on. Nearly all popular Google services, including search and email, are blocked in China. Android phones sold in the country also ship with alternatives to Google services.

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