The European Union is prepping a formal investigation into whether Google is promoting its own Android apps and services over those of rival developers, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
The investigation into Android, uncovered by the Journal, is based on a questionnaire sent to mobile device companies inquiring about any deals with Google that demanded "exclusivity." In particular, the EU is looking for proof of any agreement in which Google prevented mobile device makers or carriers from pre-installing items that competed with the search giant's Android apps or services.
Mobile companies have also been asked whether they ever tried to restrict Google's "anti-fragmentation agreements," which require that all of the company's Android apps are bundled as a single package. If so, the EU wants to know Google's response.
Google has been through the ringer with antitrust regulators in Europe over the past two years. In February, the company reached a tentative settlement with the EU over complaints about its search practices by agreeing to display search results to its own services in the same way as those for rival businesses. But EU Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia is reconsidering the settlement in light of criticism from several of those rivals.
An antitrust probe into Google's Android practices could further bog down the company in European legalities, especially if the search practice settlement remains unresolved.
The EU reportedly had sent out questionnaires last year to certain companies inquiring about Google's Android licensing agreements. But the matter now seems to be more serious as companies that receive the new questionnaires are legally required to answer them by September 12, the Journal said.
Responding to a request for comment about the EU's possible investigation, a Google spokesperson sent CNET the following statement:
Anyone can use Android without Google and anyone can use Google without Android. Since Android's introduction, greater competition in the smartphone market has given consumers more and better choices. Both the U.S. FTC and Korean Fair Trade Commission have examined Google's agreements around Android in depth and concluded that there was no cause for legal concerns.