The EU has fined Google a record €4.3bn over Android antitrust

Google’s fine by the European Union over apps for Android mobile devices will set a record for antitrust penalties. ― Reuters pic

Google’s fine by the European Union over apps for Android mobile devices will set a record for antitrust penalties. ― Reuters pic

The EU said Google ensures that Google Search and Chrome are pre-installed on "practically all Android devices" sold in Europe.

"In this way, Google has used Android as a vehicle to cement the dominance of its search engine".

This might not affect anyone who usually uses whatever default browser is on their smartphone, like Samsung's Internet app. But a nyone who would actively want to use Google Chrome and Google Search on an Android smartphone that doesn't come pre-installed with those apps would need to find them in the Google Play Store and install them manually.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said the case focused on three types of restrictions that Google imposed on Android device manufacturers and operators. She said that European Union antitrust laws put a "special responsibility" on dominant businesses, meaning they can not deny other companies the chance "to compete with them on merit". Even for a company as massive as Google, $5 billion isn't exactly pocket change; it represents about 40 percent of Google's net profit in 2017, according to the Wall Street Journal.

A third case also stands against the company from 2016, in which the European Union has accused the firm of preventing third parties using its Adsense product from displaying search advertisements from Google's competitors. This prevents users from accidentally buying phones that don't work with the Android content they expect, but the EU Commission says it also unfairly benefits Google.

Google said that it would appeal the decision.

THE RESPONSE. After the EC announced it had fined Google, the company's CEO, Sundar Pichai, penned a blog post in which he notes that Google plans to appeal the fine.

Business review site Yelp has complained about Google's anti-competitive business models, and its polic head, Luther Lowe, described Ms Vestager's decision as an "important step in restoring competition, innovation and consumer welfare in the digital economy". Android manufacturers who wanted to pre-install Google's apps couldn't use Amazon's Android fork, for instance, and could only use Google's version of Android.

The fine -exactly €4,342,865,000- and explanation are available in the EU's decision, here.

During the investigation, device manufacturers told the Commission that the Google Play Store is a "must-have" app, which consumers expect to have pre-installed, especially since they can not lawfully install it themselves. This means that people are far more likely to use search apps and browsers already present on their devices, and are unlikely to download competing apps. "The decision also requires Google to refrain from any measure that has the same or an equivalent object or effect as these practices". The main argument seems to rely on the fact that iOS exists and that Android has enabled many app developers, including European ones, to make a living through the platform. "This reduced the ability of rivals to compete effectively with Google", the EC said.

Google also prevented manufacturers from selling smartphones that run on rival operating systems based on the Android open source code, it said.

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