Google has been having a tough time across Europe, with the European antitrust regulator investigating multiple accusations of monopolistic trade practices against the search giant. The company has also been investigated for tax evasion in the UK by the country’s tax authorities, the HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs). Following the lengthy investigation, the American tech giant agreed to pay £130 million ($185 million) in back taxes as part of a deal reached between the two sides back in January. However, the company’s troubles in the continent don’t end with the authorities in the EU alone. In Russia too, Google has been besieged with complaints against its business practices, especially from its biggest rival in the country – Yandex.
Back in February last year, Google was accused by the Moscow-based search engine operator, Yandex NV, of violating Russian antitrust laws by allegedly insisting that that its services must be installed as default on Android devices being sold in the country. In September, Russia’s Federal Anti-Monopoly Service (FAS) ruled in favor of the Yandex, but Google vowed to fight back, saying that it will appeal against the ruling in a court of law. Which it did, back in November last year. On Monday, the Arbitration court in Moscow came out with its verdict, which upheld the original decision by the FAS, thereby dealing a significant blow to the US-based tech giant. In November itself, emboldened by the FAS verdict in its favor, Yandex had also appealed to the European Commission to investigate the American company for the exact same practice, under the premise that it also violates the European Union’s antitrust regulations.
While Google hasn’t commented officially on the latest development just yet, as a result of this decision, manufacturers selling Android smartphones in the country will now have the freedom to install any search, mail or mapping service as default, quite possibly to the detriment of Google. With a number of other investigations pending at the European Commission, it remains to be seen if this setback in Russia will affect Google adversely in those cases. Google, obviously will be hoping that this will be a one off, but unconfirmed reports already indicate that the company can face similar actions in the future from the European Union’s antitrust regulators, led by the European Competition Commissioner, Ms. Margrethe Vestager.