Japan launches antimonopoly probe into Google's search dominance

FILE PHOTO: Google app is seen on a smartphone in this illustration

TOKYO (Reuters) -Japan's competition watchdog said on Monday it has started investigating Google for a possible breach of antimonopoly laws in web search services, following similar steps by authorities in Europe and other major economies.

The Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC) said it was investigating whether Google violated Japan's Antimonopoly Act by returning part of its revenue to Android smartphone makers on the condition they not install rival search engines.

It is also looking into Google's practice of making Android phone makers install its "Google Search" and "Google Chrome" browser application with the "Google Play" app.

"There is suspicion that through these steps it is excluding competitors' business activity and restricting its business partners' business activity in the search services market," a JFTC official told a press conference.

The official said the issue was not that Google's service was widely used, it was about fair competition.

"We've launched this probe wondering if the situation under which other search engine providers' services have a hard time being recognised as a user's choice, no matter how much improvement has been made, is artificially created."

The decision follows similar investigations by antitrust regulators in the European Union, the United States and others.

(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka and Kantaro KomiyaEditing by Chang-Ran Kim, Robert Birsel)