EU accused Google of setting its own search engine as a default search tool on Android devices and pre-installing Google’s own apps such as Maps and Play Store, which effectively blocked the competition.
That’s exactly the same complaint Korean domestic internet companies filed for KFTC. After a few years of investigations, KFTC decided that Google was not guilty of antitrust law in Korea in 2013.
Some Korean media opened fire for KFTC arguing that it should have accused Google of antitrust activities. KFTC was not strong enough in pushing Google for levying punishment, the sentiment goes.
At that time, KFTC found Google not guilty because smartphone users can switch to other search engines or apps with a single touch. The fact that Korean tech companies including Naver, Daum and Kakao continuously increased its presence despite the Android’s dominant in Korean market also influenced KFTC’s decision.
(Though they all had hard times in competing with mobile super-power Google, and Daum got caught by Google in terms of the share of mobile search queries.)
It’s hard to tell whether Google was fair or unfair enough in playing their mobile game.
But one thing for sure is that Europe has nothing to lose even if they charged Google or get some burden for tech companies.
While there are no European tech companies to compete with Google, Microsoft or Apple, Korea has some strong domestic alternatives for them. Naver is a far-front leading search engine with more than 70% of market share. Kakao attracted virtually every Korean smartphone users with its mobile messenger KakaoTalk.
And Samsung, hands in hands with Google, emerged as a number 1 smartphone manufacturer both in Korean and global market. Those are among some reasons KFTC made a different decision 3 years ago with that of EU today for virtually identical issues.
Chances are KFTC may review their decision in comparison with EU, it doesn’t seem Korean tech companies will be very interested in the antitrust issue.
Naver is a time-proven leader in a search engine and busy for expanding its Line business to abroad. Kakao is struggling for its new on-demand drive, and Daum was acquired by Kakao. No time for looking behind?