On 15 April 2015, the European Commission (EC) sent a Statement of Objections (preliminary statement of case) to Google alleging the company has abused its dominant position in the markets for general internet search services in the EU. The EC has also formally opened a separate antitrust investigation into Google's conduct as regards the mobile operating system Android.
On the search side, the allegation is that Google has been systematically favouring its own comparison shopping product (Google Shopping) in its general search results pages. The case therefore essentially concerns whether a dominant firm is entitled to discriminate in favour of services it provides in a separate market.
On the Android side, the EC will assess whether Google has illegally hindered the development and market access of rival mobile operating systems and apps/services. The concern is that it has done this by requiring or incentivising smartphone and tablet manufacturers to exclusively pre-install Google’s own apps/services, by preventing smartphone and tablet manufacturers from developing and marketingmodified and potentially competing versions of Android (so-called “Android forks”) and by tying or bundling certain Google apps/services distributed on Android devices with other Google apps/services.
While not entirely novel, the search case in particular raises difficult legal issues. In any event, competitors of dominant providers in other online or in offline industries now have more ammunition to use when those providers seek to favour their own separate services or discriminate against competitors of those services. This is arguably the case even absent any foreclosure of those rivals.