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Japan investigates Google for alleged antitrust violations in search


Google app is seen on a smartphone in this illustration.

Dado Ruvic | Reuters

Japan’s competition watchdog on Monday said it is investigating Alphabet-owned Google for alleged antitrust law violations in regards to its search practices on mobile platforms, ramping up regulatory pressure on the U.S. technology giant.

The Japan Fair Trade Commission said it is examining whether Google made agreements with Android smartphone makers to share search ad-related revenue on the condition that the device manufacturer does not install a rival search engine.

The regulator is also examining whether Google services are prioritized on Android phones.

The Japan FTC is asking for third-party opinions as part of the probe to be submitted by Nov. 22.

In response, Google said Android is an “open-source platform that has enabled a diversity” in partners and device manufacturers.

“Its openness and flexibility ensure that users always have a choice to customize their devices to suit their needs, including the way they browse and search the internet, or download apps,” a Google spokesperson told CNBC via email on Monday.

Google’s Android is the world’s largest mobile operating system, accounting for a roughly 80% market share of smartphones.

Some of Google’s business practices in regards to Android have come under the scrutiny of regulators around the world in recent years. In 2018, the European Union fined Google a record 4.34 billion euro ($4.6 billion) for abusing the dominance of Android. The EU said Google unfairly favored its own services by forcing smartphone makers to pre-install Google apps Chrome and Search in a bundle with its app store, Google Play.

An EU court slightly reduced that fine last year after an appeal by Google, but broadly agreed with regulators’ findings.

In a trial that began last month, the U.S. Department of Justice alleged that Google violated anti-monopoly law through exclusive agreements with mobile phone manufacturers and browser makers to make its search engine the default for consumers. This ongoing proceeding is the biggest tech antitrust trial in the U.S in decades.

– CNBC’s Lauren Feiner contributed to this report.



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