Antitrust Settlement Sees Google Open Android Search In Russia

Google is to allow rival search engines to be installed on devices running its Android operating system in Russia under the terms of a deal with the country’s competition regulator.

The out-of-court deal, which settles a dispute dating back to 2015, means Google will permit the pre-installation of competing search engines and other applications on Android devices in Russia, regulator FAS said on Monday.

Search choice tool

Google is also to develop a tool to allow users to choose a default search engine on their Android device.

“Users will be able to change settings at any time and choose the default search engine which suits their needs,” FAS stated.

FAS’ probe was spurred by a complaint by Russian search firm Yandex in February 2015, and the regulator ruled later that year that Google’s practices with Android broke the country’s competition laws.

Google had argued competition wasn’t harmed since rivals were free to develop their own competing versions of Android, and denied it was “prohibiting” software that competed with its own YouTube, Maps and Photos to be installed on Android devices.

Yandex ‘commercial deal’

Google said the deal met the interests of all parties and said it had reached a deal with Yandex to promote the Russian service in Google’s Chrome browser.

“We are happy to have reached a commercial agreement with Yandex and a settlement with Russia’s competition regulator, the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS), resolving the competition case over the distribution of Google apps on Android,” Google said in a statement.

Yandex chief executive Arkady Volozh said the deal was a win for consumers.

“I am thankful to the Federal Antimonopoly Service for applying the law in a manner that effectively and efficiently restores competition to the market for the benefit of Russian users, as competition always breeds innovation,” he stated.

Yandex’s shares rose more than 7 percent after the settlement was announced.

The deal, due to remain in place for six years and nine months, was approed by a Russian court earlier on Monday. Google must also pay a fine of 438 million roubles (£6.2m) imposed last year.

EU Android probe

The settlement could have wider implications, since Google faces similar charges in other parts of the world, including Europe.

The EU’s case, formally launched in April of last year, alleges Google “requires and incentivises” hardware makers to exclusively install Google’s own services, including search, amongst other charges.

In its November response Google argued its Android marketing approach “carefully balances the interests of users, developers, hardware makers, and mobile network operators” and has “expanded” competition rather than harming it.

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Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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