Internet

Google faces potential antitrust probe in Russia

Russian search engine Yandex is up in arms over the bundling of Google's search app with Android.

Google has faced similar accusations in the US and Europe. CNET

Google may find itself the target of yet another antitrust probe.

Russia-based search engine Yandex has sent a request to the Federal Antimonopoly Service of Russia for an investigation of Google over potential violations of Russian antitrust law, Yandex said Wednesday.

Yandex's complaint focuses on the bundling of the Google search app and other Google services with Google's Android mobile operating system. Yandex charges that although Android is supposed to be an open platform, Google requires device makers to pre-install certain Google apps and to set Google search as the default. Further, device makers are forbidden from installing services from Google's competitors, according to Yandex.

Yandex is not much of a presence outside Russia, but it controls almost 60 percent of the overall search market in its home country. By contrast, its share of the search market on Android devices is only about 44 percent, a Yandex spokesman told BBC News, down from 52 percent a year ago.

Yandex's gripe against Google is nothing new. Google has faced complaints and lawsuits both in the US and in Europe over its alleged practice of locking out the competition by requiring its own apps to be installed on Android devices.

The Russian search engine also accuses Google of locking device makers into Google's app store. In order to install Google Play, device makers must preinstall the entire suite of Google Mobile Services, which include Google Search, Google Maps, Gmail and other Google apps, Yandex said.

To back up its claim, Yandex cited three smartphone vendors -- Prestigio, Fly and Explay -- who told it last year that they were no longer able to preinstall Yandex services on their Android devices as a result of Google's practices. As a result, Yandex said that not only does its own company suffer but so do device makers and ultimately the end user.

"We believe that device manufacturers should have a choice as to which search provider to set as the default or which services to have preinstalled on the device," Yandex's PR director Ochir Mandzhikov, said in a statement. "Google should not prevent manufacturers from preinstalling competitor apps. This is why we are talking about the need to unbundle Google's Android operating system from Google Search and its other end-user services."

The Russian company is also part of a current probe into Google's practices by the European Commission. Last summer, the EC sent questionnaires to mobile device companies asking about any deals with Google that demanded European regulators have been looking for evidence of agreements in which Google prevented mobile device makers or carriers from pre-installing items that competed with its own Android apps or services.

Despite Gooogle's alleged tactics, Yandex continues to thrive as an Internet company and search engine. On Wednesday, the company reported fourth-quarter earnings of $134.6 million (7.6 billion rubles), up 126 percent from a year ago. Revenue rose to $260.7 million, up 21 percent from the year-ago quarter.

"We continue to develop our existing services and products as well as new business models, such as the recently launched Yandex Data Factory," Yandex CEO Arkady Volozh said. "Although we face challenging economic headwinds, including substantial currency fluctuations, we are managing Yandex for the long term. We will continue to improve monetization, pursue cost efficiencies in our core business and manage our forex (foreign exchange) exposure, while investing into critical growth areas such as mobile and advertising technologies."

Google did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment.