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Japan Investigates Google for Antitrust Violations

Japan’s competition watchdog, the Japan Fair Trade Commission, has initiated an investigation into Google, a subsidiary of Alphabet, over alleged antitrust violations related to its search practices on mobile platforms. The commission is probing whether Google entered into agreements with Android smartphone manufacturers to share search ad-related revenue, contingent on the condition that the device manufacturer refrains from installing a competitor’s search engine. Additionally, the regulator is examining whether Google services receive preferential treatment on Android phones. The investigation raises questions about Google’s business practices and whether it leveraged its dominant position to stifle competition.

Google responded, emphasizing that Android is an open-source platform that fosters diversity in partnerships and device manufacturing. The company asserted that the openness and flexibility of Android ensure users have the choice to customize their devices, including their internet browsing, search preferences, and app downloads.

The Japan FTC has invited third-party opinions as part of the investigation, with a submission deadline of November 22. Google’s Android holds a significant market share, accounting for approximately 80% of the global smartphone operating system market. This isn’t the first time Google has faced antitrust scrutiny; in 2018, the European Union fined the company €4.34 billion for alleged abuses related to Android’s dominance. The EU contended that Google unfairly promoted its services by compelling smartphone makers to pre-install Google apps in a bundle with the Google Play app store.