Google loses Android antitrust appeal in Russia

Google has lost an appeal in a Russian court against an antitrust ruling pertaining to its Android mobile OS (via Reuters).

The competition complaint was brought against Android back in February 2015 by local company Yandex — aka the “Google of Russia” — which had argued that Google’s contract for Android broke competition rules by requiring handset makers to pre-install various Google services in order to be able to access the Google Play app store.

The original ruling was handed down by Russia’s FAS (Federal Antimonopoly Service) last September. Google appealed the ruling, but today the Moscow Arbitration court rejected the company’s appeal — upholding FAS’ judgment that Google’s practices broke Russian law by leading to the “prohibition of pre-installation of apps of other producers.”

Google will now be required to amend its contract with OEMs in Russia to comply with the ruling.

Asked for its reaction to losing the appeal, a Google spokesperson said: “We’re not commenting as we have not yet received the judgment.”

A spokesman for Yandex said: “After careful consideration of all the facts in the case against Google’s anticompetitive practices, the court has upheld FAS’s judgement. We are satisfied with the court’s decision to uphold FAS’s judgement in the case against Google.”

While this antitrust ruling only applies to Google’s Android-related business practices to Russia, the European competition commission is also considering similar charges against Android in Europe as a whole — in addition to formally probing the company’s search comparison practices.

Last October, Europe’s antitrust commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, described the Google Android investigation as a “high priority” for her department.

Complainants in that instance say Google uses Android’s platform dominance like a “Trojan horse” to drive adoption of its services, squeezing out competing apps which — unlike Google’s apps and services — require users to discover and download them.

Analysts peg Android’s global share of the smartphone market at around 80 percent, with Apple’s iOS in a distant second place — giving Google huge power to de facto dictate which apps and services smartphone users discover.