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Google hit by Russian antitrust probe

The search giant has been accused of monopolizing space on Android devices by requiring manufacturers to bundle its own services and locking out the competition.

Google is facing another antitrust probe, this time from Russia. CNET

Google must now contend with yet another antitrust investigation.

The Federal Antimonopoly Service of Russia has launched a formal probe into Google over potential violations of antitrust law, Reuters reported Friday. The investigation was initiated following a request by Russia-based search engine Yandex, which has accused Google of forcing device makers to preinstall certain Google apps and to set Google search as the default.

"We have studied the complaint and decided to open proceedings regarding the violation of anti-monopoly regulation," a spokeswoman for the FAS told Reuters.

Yandex, which competes directly with Google, owns almost 60 percent of the overall search market in its home country. But its share of searches on Android devices is only around 44 percent, down from 52 percent a year ago, a Yandex spokesman told BBC News.

The Russian search engine claims that Google locks 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. Further, Google blocks rival apps from being installed on Android devices. Citing one example, Yandex said that three of its smartphone vendor partners -- Prestigio, Fly and Explay -- told it last year that they were no longer able to preinstall Yandex services on their Android devices due to Google's policy.

The Russian probe is only the latest investigation into claims that Google imposes restrictions on Android device makers. Last summer, the European Commission sent questionnaires to device manufacturers inquiring about any deals with Google that demanded European regulators have been seeking such information in order to determine whether Google abuses its Android market share to promote its own services, sources with direct knowledge of the topic told Reuters.

Google is also facing a lawsuit in the US from two individuals who say the company forces Android device makers to limit rival apps by making Google's own apps the default. If the judge agrees and decided to move forward, the case could turn into a class action suit, opening the floodgates for more people to join in. But for now, this case is on hold as the judge seeks more evidence, according to Reuters.

Google has denied allegations that it monopolizes the space on Android devices.

"Device makers are free to install the apps they choose and consumers always have complete control over the apps on their devices," Google said in a statement emailed to Reuters.

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