S.Korean portals file competition complaint against Google

SEOUL, April 15 Fri Apr 15, 2011 12:13am EDT

SEOUL, April 15 (Reuters) - South Korea's top internet portals filed a complaint on Friday with antitrust regulators against Google Inc , alleging the search giant was unfairly stifling competition in the domestic mobile internet search market.

The move comes after Microsoft Corp filed a similar complaint against the world's top internet firm with European Commission regulators last month. [ID:nN31223364]

In their joint complaint to South Korea's Fair Trade Commission, NHN Corp and Daum Communications Corp , South Korea's top internet portals, said Google was unfairly impeding competition by using its status as a dominant smartphone operating system provider.

Competing web browsers and portals are rushing to gain a bigger share of the fast-growing mobile market, which is now outpacing expansion of the personal computer industry. [ID:nLDE71D0C6]

"Smartphones using (Google's) free Android operating system have Google's search engine installed as a default navigation tool and are systematically designed to make it virtually impossible to switch to another option," NHN said in a statement.

"This limits opportunities for companies offering similar services to compete on a level playing field, restricts consumers' choices and discourages the growth of the mobile internet market as telecoms operators and handset makers will not be encouraged to offer differentiated products and services."

Daum said the practice has helped Google enjoy a near 20 percent share of Korea's mobile internet search market despite its market share remaining at around 2 percent in the country's fixed-line internet segment, the smallest of major portals including NHN, Daum and Yahoo Inc .

Google officials had no immediate comment on the complaint.

Google's Android operating system has stormed the smartphone market. It is widely expected to become the No.1 platform this year and has also emerged as the only viable solution for tablet makers who do not own their own operating system.

The smartphone market will grow 58 percent this year and Android will account for 39 percent of the market, while the tablet market is likely to quadruple this year to 70 million units, according to research firm Gartner. (Reporting by Miyoung Kim; Additional Reporting by Jonathan Hopfner; Editing by Matt Driskill)

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