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FTC to decide on Google’s alleged Android abuse next month

Google logo (Reuters-Yonhap)
Google logo (Reuters-Yonhap)

South Korea’s Fair Trade Commission will hold a final review on Sept. 1 on allegations that Google had exploited its market dominance to coerce Korean device manufacturers and wireless carriers to use its Android operating system, shutting out rivals, the state antitrust watchdog said Thursday.

It will be the third full-member meeting that the commission holds on the issue.

At the Sept. 1 session, commissioners are expected to finalize whether to penalize the US firm, and if so, the consequent punishment.

An official decision usually arrives two weeks after the full session’s conclusion.

Indicative of its caution, the FTC has held two full-member sessions in May and July on Google’s alleged anti-competition practice.

In designating Sept. 1 as the final review date, the FTC stressed that it has given time for Google to prepare and defend itself, and that it has upheld all of the tech firm’s procedural rights.

The multinational company has been accused of forcing smartphone manufacturers to use the Android operating system, thereby winning unfair benefits from reduced competition.

The California-headquartered firm is facing similar allegations in other parts of the world, including the United States and Europe.

It is very rare for the commission to hold more than one full session on a single agenda. Previous cases in which the FTC had done so in the past 10 years involved Qualcomm and Apple, both based in the US.

In holding three rounds of talks for the case, the watchdog explained Google’s abuse case is a global issue that has taken place over a long period of time, and that there have been many points in dispute that require thorough review.

The case is the first time the FTC is utilizing the “data room” system, which the watchdog introduced to obtain limited access to confidential business information of corporations in December 2020.

Over the course of the review, the FTC has faced difficulties in gaining necessary evidence, sparking concern that it may infringe on trade secrets of other businesses while examining the alleged violations.

The data room is monitored with surveillance cameras, only outside counsel is allowed to enter the room to review data there, and any lawyer given access to the information there has to sign a nondisclosure agreement. 

By Jo He-rim (