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Hey mobile firms: About that Android thing... Did Google add a lockout clause?

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The European Commission has asked mobile telecoms firms and manufacturers of devices to provide details of any agreements they have with Google regarding the use of the technology giant's Android operating system.

A number of Google's rivals have recently complained about agreements between Google and mobile device manufacturers. FairSearch, which represents Microsoft, Oracle and a number of other technology companies, complained to the Commission that the agreements resulted in Google's own software and services being more readily available to consumers than those offered by rivals.

The Commission has now sent a questionnaire to mobile firms and asked them whether their agreements with Google contain clauses that prevent or limit them from "launching/distributing non-Android devices", according to a report by the Reuters.

Earlier this year FairSearch accused Google of using "deceptive conduct" in order to "lock out competition" in the mobile market.

At the time it said Google had "achieved its dominance in the smartphone operating system market by giving Android to device-makers for ‘free'" but that it had, in the process, required device manufacturers wishing to incorporate the Android platform to "pre-load an entire suite of Google mobile services and ... give them prominent default placement on the phone". FairSearch said that this "disadvantages other providers, and puts Google’s Android in control of consumer data on a majority of smartphones shipped today".

In total the mobile telecoms firms have been asked by the Commission to submit answers to 82 questions by 26 July, according to the Reuters report. A Google spokesman said that Android is "an open platform that fosters competition".

"Handset makers, carriers and consumers can decide how to use Android, including which applications they want to use," the Google spokesman added, according to the report.

Google is currently the subject of a Commission investigation into whether it has abused a dominant position in the internet search market. Google has offered to make changes to its search practices, including to differentiate results for its own "specialised search services" from others displayed in its search engine rankings, in order to resolve the issue. Its proposals are currently the subject to market testing.

Copyright © 2013, Out-Law.com

Out-Law.com is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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