After finding Google guilty of "abusing its dominant market position," Russia's FAS (Federal Antimonopoly Service) has ordered the search giant to make changes to its licensing agreements with device manufacturers. The current agreement states that hardware partners that sell Android devices with the Play Store pre-installed will have to prominently highlight Google's other apps, which also come pre-installed.
The agreement also prevents vendors from pre-installing competing apps. Russia's leading search engine, Yandex, filed the complaint against Google, stating that the Mountain View organization's practices were in violation of the anti-competitive laws in the country. The FAS is now giving Google until November 18 to change its agreement with device vendors with regards to pre-installed content:
To restore competition on the market, Google should amend agreements with mobile-device producers within a month and exclude the anti-competitive clauses.
Yandex provided the following statement to TechCrunch following the ruling:
We are satisfied with the decision of the Federal Antimonopoly Service of Russia (FAS) to recognise Google's actions, as detailed in our complaint, as a violation of the antitrust law. Thousands of pages of evidence in this case included documents provided by Google, as well as documents provided by device manufacturers.
Our goal is to return fair play to the market – when apps are preinstalled on mobile devices based on how good or how popular they are rather than due to restrictions imposed by the owner of the operating system. That fact that such restrictions have continually been tightening, led us to filing a request for investigation with Russia's Antimonopoly Service.
Yandex and Google alike understand the needs of web users, and they both know how to provide a top-notch service. Professional competence of Google Russia's team is beyond doubt, but why use restrictions or ban competition if one truly believes in the quality of their product?
We hope that the FAS's ruling will help to restore fair competition on the market, but to what extent will depend on how this ruling will be executed. Additional measures might have to be taken unless the situation changes. What would solve the problem, as we see it, is an opportunity for users to choose service provider right when they are setting up a new device.
Our position is strong and we intend to defend it in case of appeal at any level. This view is shared by a number of companies outside of Russia. Google has been under investigation by the European Commission for a few years already, with news having surfaced only a few days ago of the possibility of another case against the company in the US. We believe that with Google's anticompetitive practices taking place in many countries, the situation has become serious enough to require a comprehensive approach.
Google has witnessed a surge in market share in Russia, rising from 34 percent in 2014 to 42 percent over the course of a year. Meanwhile, Yandex's share has reduced from 54 to 50 percent, and the local search engine will now be looking to capitalize on the verdict to get its app pre-installed as an alternative to Google's offerings on handsets sold in the country.
Google is facing increased scrutiny over the way it conducts its global operations, with the EU FTC in the US launching investigations over antitrust practices. The Indian government is also looking into possible manipulation of search results by the vendor in the country.
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