Google is not a stranger to anti-competitive actions when it comes to the Android mobile platform. Things that would be considered okay if the software was only used by a minority of the market are now being frowned upon because of how much market share Android has. Reports say that Android accounts for over 80% of the mobile market in Korea (as of January) and this has made authorities like the FTC take notice.
We’ve seen countries like Russia and the European Union launch investigations into Google over similar practices last year. This resulted in Russia fining Google a total of $6.75 million over competition violations, while the latest investigation from the EU is still underway. The latest investigation comes from the FTC who feels that Google could be obstructing Samsung’s development of its own mobile platform. Google had previously faced an investigation from the FTC back in 2011, but was cleared in 2013.
Now, with the new information about Android taking up 80% of the market in South Korea, the FTC is checking to see if they can reopen that case. It seems the target of these investigations are from agreements that Google has with various OEMs. One of these is known as the Mobile Application Distribution Agreement (MADA) while the other is known as the anti-fragmentation agreement (AFA). The MADA requires that Android handsets using Google’s apps and services keep the Google search engine as default, among other provisions.
The other seems to be the focus in this new investigation though as it prevents Samsung from developing a new mobile OS that uses “Google’s algorithms,” according to The Korea Times. As usual, Google’s natural response to these accusations are about how Android is an open source platform and that partner agreements are entirely voluntary. Samsung is free to take the Android code and create their own operating system, which is what we see companies like Amazon do.
These agreements only prevent companies from doing so while using specific technology and services that Google has created themselves (like the Google Play Store).