Korea’s leading portals Naver and Daum, said they would file a complaint to the Fair Trade Commission against Google as early as this week.
“We’ve been on the same page on the issue and we’re currently considering asking state authorities to conduct an investigation against Google,” said Daum’s spokeswoman Jung Ji-eun. “We will make the final call (whether to submit the complaint) as early as this week or at least within this month.”
The conflict centers on smartphones running on Google’s Android mobile operating system being equipped with Google’s search engine, meaning people have to download the apps to use local search engines on their mobiles.
Calling it “unfair competition,” Naver and Daum officials claim Google has been pressuring mobile manufacturers not to pre-load the local search engines on mobile Web browsers.
“What we’re pointing out as a problem is the fact that the global company tried to exclude us, the competitors, from taking part in the game,” said Jung. “It’s not the result, but the act itself.”
In response, Google said it is up to the manufacturer to decide which search engine to load on their mobile devices since Android is an open platform.
The number of people owning a smartphone powered by Android OS is on the increase as the total figure of smartphone users in Korea recently topped 10 million.
The estimated market share for mobile search engines is currently 50 percent for Naver, followed by Daum and Google, both with about 20 percent each, according to industry sources.
They, however, said the picture is entirely different when looking at the market share for Web searches. Naver takes up about 70 percent, followed by Daum with around 20 percent and Google reportedly records a single digit figure.
Shortly after news spread that local portals may file a complaint against Google to the FTC, many members in online communities, however, were enraged, stating local portals should first reflect on their past wrongdoings.
As the two dominant players in the online community, the two portals reportedly conducted numerous unfair trade activities against smaller firms involving Internet businesses in the past, said industry sources.
As an exemplary case, Naver is allowing some firms to be featured on the shopping slot of its front page for free, while collecting money ― up to more than 10 million won ($9,173) ― from some others such as G-Market, Auction and Lotte.com. Those who are being listed for free are companies participating in Naver’s proprietary open market platform.
Online shop operators said this is to force small and mid-sized shopping malls to take part in its system.
“I think it would be a better idea if Naver or Daum gains more competitiveness up to Google’s level,” said a netizen surnamed Lee.
By Cho Ji-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org