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Google accused of meddling with S Korean probe

Search giant refutes anti-competition officials' claims of missing files

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Google has been accused of methodically interfering with an anti-competition investigation into Android by South Korea's Fair Trade Commission.

Google deleted files and made its employees work from home in an attempt to frustrate the investigation, alleges the commission in an interview with a South Korean newspaper. The non-co-operation allegedly came after Google's Seoul office was raided by the commission's officials in September. The anti-competition probers were looking into whether Google's Android phones unfairly prioritise Google search and are "systematically designed" to make it difficult to switch to another option.

According to the newspaper report, the South Korean watchdog is considering imposing its maximum fine for non-compliance. Google denies that its employees deleted documents or that it instructed them to work from home in order to impede the investigation.

The online ad giant first came under investigation for anti-competitive practices in April when South Korean internet portals NHN Corp and Daum Communications Corp filed a complaint with regulators alleging that Google was unfairly stifling competition in the mobile search market. NHN Corp and Daum Communications both run web portals with attached proprietary search engines.

Google is under investigation for similar anti-competition issues in Europe and the US.

If the fine is handed down, it's unlikely to have a big impact on the multinational - the maximum fine the South Korean anti-competition body can impose is 200 million won (£111,795). ®

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