Authorities in Japan have begun an investigation into Google and the domination of its online search engine.

Japan’s competition watchdog, the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC), announced on Monday that it has “opened an investigation concerning the suspected violation of the Antimonopoly Act by Google LLC … and decided to seek information and comments from third parties about the suspected violation in the manner described below.”

Alphabet’s Google is already facing similar investigations by antitrust regulators in the European Union, the United States and other countries.

Monopoly investigation

The JFTC said this is the first time for it to seek information and comments from third parties in the early stages of the case investigation.

It added that that the JFTC has not reached any conclusions at this stage as to whether or not the Antimonopoly Act has been violated.

The JFTC said that Google has been suspected to exclude business activities of its competitors or restrict business activities of its counterparties by entering into license agreements with Android mobile device manufacturers.

It said under those agreements Google makes the OEMs install its applications, such as “Google Search” and the “Google Chrome” web browser, together with its application store “Google Play”, and designates where to place icons of such applications on screens of the devices.

The JFTC said that Google is also suspected of entering into agreements with OEMs, under which Google shares its revenue from its search advertising service with them on conditions including that they do not pre-install competitors’ search application.

Fair competition

“There is suspicion that through these steps it is excluding competitors’ business activity and restricting its business partners’ business activity in the search services market,” a JFTC official was quoted by Reuters as telling a press conference.

The official reportedly said the issue was not that Google’s service was widely used, it was about fair competition.

“We’ve launched this probe wondering if the situation under which other search engine providers’ services have a hard time being recognised as a user’s choice, no matter how much improvement has been made, is artificially created,” the JFTC official was quoted as saying.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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