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Google hit with High Court injunction over mobile 'monopoly abuse'

A digital advertising start-up used by Tesco Mobile customers to reduce their bills has won a High Court injunction against Google to prevent its technology being banished from hundreds of millions of smartphones.
Unlockd, an Australian company backed by investors including Lachlan Murdoch, eldest son of media mogul Rupert, alleged that plans by Google to evict it from the Play Store and cut it off from an advertising clearing house amounted to monopoly abuse.
The High Court today granted an injunction barring action against Tesco Mobile Xtras, an app that uses Unlockd’s technology to allow customers to gain discounts on mobile bills. They opt in to see an advertisement each time they activate their smartphone to save ?2 per month.
Google, which runs the Play Store as the main way for users of its Android mobile software to download apps, warned Unlockd in March that it was in violation of its rules and would be banned. Android is the world's most popular smartphone software, used in four out of five devices globally.
Google's move sent Unlockd into crisis mode, forcing it to suspend plans to float on the Sydney Stock Exchange and triggering a complaint in the English courts. The start-up claims Google had been “fully aware of the existence and nature” of its business and found it in compliance with Play Store and advertising policies.
Court documents seen by The Daily Telegraph accuse Google of acting to crush a new competitor that offers consumers a financial return in exchange for viewing advertising online.
Google hit with High Court injunction over mobile 'monopoly abuse'

Unlockd chief executive Matt Berriman claims Google to crush his growing company

Credit:
Smart Company
“Google is threatening to eliminate a small and dependent business, Unlockd, whose innovative business model represents a serious future challenge to Google’s own online advertising business (which is based on offering ‘free’ services to users, in return… for no compensation or reward),” the court heard.
The row threatens to sink Unlockd, according to its chief executive, former professional cricketer Matt Berriman.
The court was told that there is “no realistic possibility of major new investment in a start-up company whose existence is threatened by its key supplier, Google”.
“If this matter is left unresolved for any extended period, the existence of Unlockd’s business is severely jeopardised.”
Mr Justice Roth granted an injunction to protect Tesco Mobile Xtras and Unlockd until its complaint comes to trial later this summer. The fate of Unlockd's other apps around the world was not clear. 
The dispute comes at a sensitive time for Google, which is battling a European Commission investigation of alleged abuses of dominance in relation to Android and the Play Store. It is also facing mounting scrutiny in the UK. A Lords inquiry last month called for a full competition investigation of the “murky” digital advertising sector and the dominance of it by Google and Facebook.
Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It has previously said Unlockd breaches its rules, including a ban on paying users to view advertising, and has been given fair warning to make changes. The technology has never been allowed in the Apple App Store.
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