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Deutsche Telekom to file anti-Google EU antitrust charge – report

Android app bundling practices fall under the microscope

By Andrew Orlowski

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German telco Deutsche Telekom is to file an antitrust complaint with the European Commission against Google, according to the New York Times.

The giant owns the T-Mobile networks in Germany and the USA, and has stakes in several others.

The complaint will allege, reports the NYT, that restrictive contracts imposed on handset manufacturers unfairly penalised European services, as Google tightly bundled its own services with the platform.

Neither Deutsche Telekom, Google or the Commission has confirmed the report officially.

The Commission has probed the tight bundling of Google services with Android before. It’s even had to ask twice, being unsatisfied by the wall of silence the handset industry thew around its business dealings with the Californian giant. Interestingly, Deutsche Telekom does not manufacture “Handys” (as mobiles are called in Germany) and is not a signatory of the MADA (Mobile Application Distribution Agreement) contract.

The MADA contract specifies that a phone maker must include all Google services, and even specifies where the app icons should be displayed on the device. The contracts prohibit (for example) a manufacturer from choosing the YouTube and Gmail apps from Google, but preferring to offer customers TomTom, HERE or Bing Maps instead of Google’s offerings. It’s an all or nothing deal.

Ben Edelman has the best overview of MADA contracts, here. “These MADA provisions serve both to help Google expand into areas where competition could otherwise occur, and to prevent competitors from gaining traction,” he writes.

The US FTC recently opened a gentle probe into the same vexed topic.

The Competition Commission is currently weighing Google’s formal response to its Statement of Objections on Google favouring its own services on the web (rather than Android). It’s said to be a hefty riposte, laden with numbers, and so no action from the Commission is expected this year.

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