Google has reached a settlement with Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) agency in the antitrust case the Russian search rival Yandex had originally filed, claiming Google had violated local competition rules. The case revolved around how Google had required handset makers to pre-load their devices with Google apps and services in order to also gain access the Google Play Store application.
FAS had imposed a fine of of 438M RUB (~$7.8M) on Google, following the antitrust ruling issued in September 2015. The fine amounts to 9 percent of Google’s revenue in Russia in 2014, plus inflations, Russian news agency TASS says.
The news of the out-of-court settlement was first reported by Reuters, and its details are also available on FAS’s website. According to Reuters, the settlement deal was approved by a Russian court on Monday, and is for a term of six years and nine months.
Per the terms of the agreement, Google will no longer demand exclusivity of its applications on Android devices in Russia, and it will not restrict the pre-installation of any competing search engines and applications – including on the Android home screen, FAS states. Google will also no longer require Google Search to be the only general search engine that’s pre-installed, and it will no longer enforce its prior agreements where handset makers had agreed to any of these terms.
FAS says that Google will have to now allow third parties to include their own search engines into the choice window, and the company must develop an active “choice window” for the Chrome browser which will allow users to pick their preferred default search engine.
In addition, the agreement states that Google will develop a new Chrome widget for Android devices already being used in Russia, which will replace the standard Google search widget on the home screen and allow users to see the new “choice screen” when it’s launched.
Within 60 days of the settlement’s approval, FAS also says, all the interested Russian search engines should have the opportunity to address Google about being included in the choice screen next year.
The deal also makes it possible for other applications to be pre-installed on Android devices in Russia.
The agreement here has wider implications than in Russia alone. Other countries have also been investigating Google’s antitrust behavior, as with the EU’s probe of Android OS which Google has attempted to rebuke, saying that it preloads its own apps and services in an effort to be competitive with rival platforms (namely, Apple’s.) Google’s battles with the EU are ongoing, with BT having in February waded in and taken Google’s side.
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