The Korea Fair Trade Commission, KFTC, announced yesterday (Friday) that it is to formally investigate if Google has violated anticompetition laws. This is not the first time that South Korea's antitrust regulator has investigated Google as in 2013, the regulator investigated if Google's insistence that smartphone manufacturers using Android on their devices had to use the Google Search on the device was bad for competition. At the time, Google was cleared of any wrongdoing after the investigation. For the current story in 2016, it is not clear the extent of the investigation so far. The KFTC did not disclose the nature of the investigation nor did they detail any potential antitrust violations. However, an unnamed individual told the source website, Reuters, that the Korea Fair Trade Commission visited Google's Seoul headquarters back in July 2016. The KFTC's announcement followed a local report that the commission had quashed anticompetition charges concerning the pre-loading of Google's applications and services onto devices running the Android operating system.
Google is no stranger to being accused of anti competitive practices. Earlier this week, Russia fined the company $6.8 million and the European Union has recently launched a new raft of investigations into Google's business, in particular at alleged anticompetitive behaviour. The massive success of Google's Android platform mirrors how successful Google's Search engine has been. However, there are a number of differences: Google insists that companies using the Android operating system must follow certain guidelines or rules. It's this that has raised eyebrows in a number of countries or regions of the world as it is seen as excluding other businesses. Although Android is the leading smartphone operating system across the world, in some countries such as India the market share has reached 97% and regulators are worried that this gives one business too much control. We have seen other moves designed to wrestle Google's insistence that manufacturers use Google's services, such as Microsoft supporting a Cyanogen OS platform based on Google's Android but without the requirement to use Google's applications.
At this time, neither Google nor parent business, Alphabet, have commented on the Korea Fair Trade Commission's statement and in the absence of information we will have to wait for the investigation to run its course. This is a developing story but it may be some weeks before we have an update.