US antitrust regulators are looking into Google (GOOGL – Get Report) over concerns that the company’s practices involving the Android operating platform are limiting competition, Bloomberg reports.
This follows complaints from unnamed “company representatives” that Google gives priority to its own apps and services, such as Gmail and Search, in turn restricting its competitors.
The investigation is still in its early stages and can fizzle into nothing.
The United States tech giant was accused of holding an unfair advantage by manipulating the search rank of rival firms, while promoting its own Google Shopping service in the process.
The FTC and Google were unavailable for comment.
Android is an open-source operating system, but numerous apps and services that Android phone and tablet buyers see and use are proprietary Google offerings, including Google Now, the Play Store, and Google Maps.
The FTC and the DOJ just met to discuss who would probe Google and agreed that the FTC would take the case.
Harry First, a law professor at New York University, told Bloomberg that product bundling may violate competition laws if a company dominates a market for a product that consumers need and then forces them to buy a related product or service. However, First pointed out that there’s probably no violation if consumers can easily go to other manufacturers to avoid the bundled product.
“The question for Android is do they really have sufficient market power, particularly in a world where there are other mobile-phone operating systems?” he said.
The FTC and Google have been unavailable for remark. That probe, which also touched upon the Android system, ended in early 2013 with the commission voting 5-0 not to bring a case. But Google doesn’t seem to be willing to conform to this rule.
The Brussels-based European Union regulator declined to comment on the USA probe when asked Friday.