It looks as though Russia will join the rest of Europe in challenging Google’s search presence — or at least it is considering doing so after Yandex, the country’s largest native search engine company, filed a complaint with the national competition watchdog over Google’s alleged abuse of its hefty Android presence.
The Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service received Yandex’s complaint and will review it before setting an investigation in motion. But given the highly publicized problems Google has been having in Europe over anticompetitive services, and its role in search tools across the continent, it is likely that a probe will go forward.
The issue cited by Yandex is device manufacturers’ inability to preinstall Yandex services on their Android devices given Google’s requirement that in order to install Google Play, device manufacturers are required to set Google as the default search. Engadget quotes Yandex’s complaint:
In 2014, three smartphone vendors – Prestigio, Fly and Explay – who have been our long-term partners, have notified us that they are no longer able to pre-install Yandex services on their Android devices. Chances are high that Google will continue this practice. It is not only Yandex or other large developers, whose services compete [with] Google’s, that are under threat, but also the device manufacturers. But ultimately, it is the end-users who suffer because of inferior services.
We believe that user-centric services, such as search, maps, email, etc., should be unbundled from the Android OS.
It is important to note that Yandex enjoyed steady success and growth over the last several years until its most recent fourth quarter. Its market share dipped to 59.7% in the fourth quarter, as compared with its 60.3% share in the fourth quarter of the previous year. The company reported that this was the first time its market share has dipped below 60% since 2010. Meaning the timing of its complaint to the watchdog is probably not coincidental.
Yandex’s claim against the search giant reflects the broader antitrust and anticompetitive issues Google has been struggling with in Europe for years. Probe after probe conducted by the E.U. have left a dent in the company’s image; the European Commission continues to voice dissatisfaction with Google’s changes and insistence that users should be able to access competing services on Android devices. Given Russia’s history of censorship and general wariness of U.S.-based technology companies, it looks as though Google will face further rounds of fire.