UKs Competition and Markets Authority looking into possible market abuse by Google against Windows phones

Jack Wilkinson

It is no secret, Microsoft’s mobile platforms have struggled, from Windows Phone to Windows 10 Mobile. Even the dearest of fans can attribute at least some of the blame towards Microsoft, they haven’t done themselves any favours. However, many also believe that Google has intentionally acted to thwart any possible success of a 3rd mobile platform which could risk its market dominance. We’ve already witnessed the fall of one once popular mobile operating system, BlackBerry, which now focuses on building products for Google’s operating system – Android.

Now, we have been informed by the UKs Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the government body assigned to ensure market fairness and transparency, is looking into launching an investigation against Google over possible abuse of its dominant position in the mobile market. Of particular concern is that there are only 2 major mobile operating systems on the market – Android and iOS, with Android taking the majority of the market. Generally, a market is recommended to have 3 major competitors, as is the case with the mobile service provider market. This is the general rule of thumb to ensure that consumers have choice and that companies don’t take advantage of their positions.

In the letter received from the CMA, it stated that a complaint has been made against Google and the information they’ve received has been passed to their Pipelines Team which “analyses and assesses the information we receive and advises on which cases offer the best prospect to make real differences for consumers.” The authority also made clear that, whilst an investigation isn’t guaranteed, they’re looking into the information they have and will be getting in touch with the companies involved, presumably Microsoft and Google, to make “detailed enquiries,” and that it will help them understand how the “market is working and may in time lead to us taking some further action.”

In recent times, Google has seemingly made a few attempts that could be seen as market abuse, which includes:

  • Blocking access to one or more of its services to consumers on a competing platform, whether temporary or permanent
  • Restricting consumers access to one or more of its service on a competing platform, or making it more tedious to access

There’s also the issue of Google not offering any of its apps on Microsoft’s mobile platform. Followed by its intentional blocking of Microsoft’s own third-party YouTube app, which could be construed as direct market abuse.

Users of its Gmail service recently made the headlines after Google made the service inaccessible to email clients on Windows 10 Mobile, with a Google engineer later replying that they’ve fixed the issue, after many user complaints on their product forums. The engineer also said that Google did not intentionally block Gmail for Windows 10 Mobile users.

If the CMA decide to proceed with a full investigation, Google would need to respond to the authority’s concerns and provide evidence to the contrary. Companies are legally obliged to cooperate with the CMA, or they could face fines for market abuse, which can be hefty in some cases.

The CMA recommends that, if any consumer feels another company is abusing its market dominance or has information to provide related to Google and Windows phones, to report it via their website here.

As this is an ongoing case, the authority will not be providing further updates, until when or if, an investigation takes place. In the meantime, they will be collecting information and evidence submitted by consumers and making enquiries.