South Korean antitrust chief says Google has undermined competition

Heekyong Yang and Hyunjoo Jin
·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: An employee answers phone calls at the switchboard of the Google office in Zurich
FILE PHOTO: An employee answers phone calls at the switchboard of the Google office in Zurich

By Heekyong Yang and Hyunjoo Jin

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea's antitrust chief said on Thursday the agency believes U.S. search engine giant Google <GOOGL.O> has undermined competition, adding that the agency plans to present a case to its review committee this year.

The U.S. government lodged an antitrust lawsuit against Google on Tuesday, and the company is facing growing criticism from some lawmakers in South Korea who accuse it of abusing its dominant market position. [nL1N2HB0EX] [nL4N2HB2X1]

Joh Sung-wook, head of the Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC), said that it was investigating allegations that Google restricts competition in the mobile application market and operating system market. The KFTC plans to send one of those cases to the deliberation committee by the end of this year, she said, without specifying which.

"When the KFTC looks at Google, there is an act that hampered competition," Joh told lawmakers in an annual parliamentary audit.

The committee will make a final decision as to whether any laws have been violated, and could fine the company, order corrective measures or bring a prosecution.

Google could not immediately be reached for comment.

Google is under investigation for allegedly blocking local smartphone makers such as Samsung Electronics <005930.KS> from using other operating systems, as well as forcing developers to publish their games only to Google's Play Store, according to an official at the agency and a lawmakers' document.

South Korea is ranked near the top in terms of app revenue and the average number of apps installed per year, thanks to the world's most advanced mobile infrastructure, according to a blog post by a Google official.

In the home market of Android phone makers Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics <066570.KS>, Google Play Store revenue in South Korea stood at nearly 6 trillion won ($5.29 billion) in 2019.

Jo also said the agency would investigate Google's plan to charge 30% commissions for in-app purchases made through its application store.

($1 = 1,134.7800 won)

(Reporting by Heekyong Yang and Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Alex Richardson)