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FTC investigation expands to Android, Mississippi joins state antitrust probe

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is focusing on whether Google is “is pressuring handset makers to pre-load phones with Google applications,” the New York Post reports.

Meanwhile, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood (D) has issued a civil investigative demand – a form of subpoena used in antitrust investigations – to Google, Bloomberg reports. Hood’s investigation of Google is the latest in a growing set of state probes into Google’s business practices for potential violations of competition and consumer protection laws, with open investigations by AGs in Texas, California, Ohio and New York as well.

The FTC is reportedly looking into whether Google pressures Android handset makers to make its search apps, such as Gmail, Google Maps and Google search the default setting on phones. These questions come at a time when the Justice Department has issued a rare second request for information in its antitrust review of Google’s proposed acquisition of Android device maker Motorola Mobility.

More than half of all smartphones bought  in the U.S. today run on Google’s Android, making it far and away the leading mobile operating system, with 56 percent of the American market for the three month period ending in August, according to Nielsen, up from 38 percent for the prior three-months. Google is the default search engine of all Android devices. As a result, Google controls around 95% of mobile search, according to the latest data from StatCounter.

If investigators determine that Google is already using its monopoly power to exert undue pressure in the mobile handset market, would allowing Google to gobble up even more power in that market by buying Motorola Mobility be helpful or harmful to the prospects for competition driving more innovation, lower prices and more consumer choice?

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