Android Used for Google Search Monopoly, Suit Alleges

Google is facing a consumer antitrust lawsuit over its requirement that if Android device manufacturers use one of its apps it must use a bundle of others, allegedly driving up the cost to consumers.

The suit, filed by Hagens Berman, a Seattle-based law firm that has represented plaintiffs in other big antitrust cases, alleges the company's mobile application distribution agreements (MADAs) with manufacturers contribute to a monopoly by Google in the search business.

Android, which is found on more than 78 percent of smartphones worldwide, can be used on devices without Google services. It is not often, however, that a company chooses to not include Google Play, YouTube or other Google apps on a device. The MADAs, the existence of which were unknown until Harvard Business School professor Ben Edelman wrote about them, must be signed before a mobile device manufacturer can include Google applications that are vital to success.

Unfair Requirements

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in San Jose, California, alleges that the MADAs have been used to boost Google's market share, particularly in the search industry. Popular Android device manufacturers like HTC and Samsung have entered into the previously secret agreements, which require that additional Google services be included on mobile devices.

Among the extra services that must be installed alongside Google Play and YouTube are applications like Google Search. Not only must they be built into the devices, they must also be made the default apps for certain functions.

By forcing Google Search to be installed on millions of Android handsets, the lawsuit alleges, Google has been able to dominate the search industry and generate billions of dollars in profit through search-related advertisements.

"Google has found a way to use its Android mobile operating system ('Android OS') to maintain and expand its monopoly," says the class-action complaint.

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