US judge dismisses antitrust case against Google over Android apps

A U.S. federal judge has dismissed an antitrust lawsuit that charges Google harmed consumers by forcing Android handset makers to use its apps by default, but gave the plaintiffs three weeks to amend their complaint.

The two consumers who filed the suit failed to show that Google’s allegedly illegal restrictive contracts on manufacturers of Android devices resulted in higher prices on phones, U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman said in a Feb. 20 ruling.

The complainants, who were seeking class-action status for the lawsuit, said that Google required manufacturers including Samsung Electronics to set the search giant’s own apps as default options on Android-based phones, restricting access to competing software such as Microsoft’s Bing search engine. The complaint alleged that this practice limited competition in the search engine market, stifled innovation and resulted in higher prices for phones.

But Freeman ruled that the complainants failed to establish a link between software requirements and phone pricing, also noting that “there are no facts alleged to indicate that defendant’s conduct has prevented consumers from freely choosing among search products or prevented competitors from innovating.”

She gave the plaintiffs three weeks to amend the antitrust complaint, filed in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California.

Google faces allegations of anticompetitive behavior in a number of antitrust cases around the world. The most recent case involves Russian search engine company Yandex, which has accused Google of illegally forcing Android device manufacturers to install its own apps and exclude software from competitors. Yandex said on Feb. 18 that it had filed a complaint with the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) asking the authority to investigate Google for possible violations of Russian antitrust law.

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