Korean FTC investigating Google for anti-competitive OS practice
Mon 13 Feb 2017
Korean antitrust officials are investigating Google’s operating system (OS) in a probe to find out whether the tech giant blocked Samsung from developing its own mobile OS.
The investigation, led by the national Fair Trade Commission (FTC), raises a case first flagged to the National Assembly six years ago. The FTC has said that it is re-opening the probe to look into whether Google limited competition in the mobile OS market as new evidence has emerged since its last decision.
In 2011, Google and Samsung signed a mobile application distribution agreement (MADA). In the same year, two top Korean web portals Naver and Daum (now Daum Kakao) filed a complaint with the FTC claiming that Google had forced manufacturers to pre-install its apps onto their device, in exchange for free use of the Android OS.
Two years later, the FTC cleared Google of the charge, deciding that the manufacturers were uploading the apps out of necessity and that there was no evidence to suggest the tech company was forcing them to do so in order to limit competition.
However, when the Google and Samsung MADA contract was disclosed following the decision, it was revealed that the Korean manufacturer had agreed to pre-load its main screen with Google software, including 12 apps. The contract also noted that Samsung had signed an anti-fragmentation agreement which had stopped it from developing its own Android-based OS.
At a recent National Assembly audit, opposition lawmaker Jeon Hae-cheol of the Democratic Party demanded a new investigation of the case to see whether Google is bullying manufacturers. ‘Because of the contract Google’s mobile search engine market share has risen, exceeding that of Daum Kakao,’ said Hae-cheol. ‘It shows the connection between Google’s mobile market share and competition limitation.’
FTC commissioner Chung Jae-chan confirmed that the agency would review its decision. If Google is found guilty of anti-competitive conduct, the FTC could order a change in Google’s business practices or charge a hefty fine.