Google has been hit with a record-breaking €4.34bn (£3.8bn) fine by the European Union over “serious illegal behaviour” to secure the dominance of its search engine on mobile phones. The European Commission says Google has abused its Android market dominance in three key areas.
- Google has been bundling its search engine and Chrome apps into the operating system
- Google has blocked phone makers from creating devices that run forked versions of Android
- Google made payments to certain large manufacturers and mobile network operators” to exclusively bundle the Google search app on handsets
Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition commissioner, said Google has used its Android mobile phone operating system “to cement its dominance as a search engine”, preventing rivals from innovating and competing “and this is illegal under EU antitrust rules”. Vestager added: “The vast majority of users simply take what comes with their device and don’t download competing apps.”
Google has 90 days to end its “illegal conduct” or its parent company Alphabet could be hit with fines amounting to 5% of its daily turnover for each day it fails to comply.
This decision seems to be more about preventing Google from bundling its services to Android, than forcing the company to change Android significantly. Phone manufacturers will still be free to bundle Chrome and Google search apps if they wish, but they won’t be forced to do so, and they’ll be free to offer devices with forked versions of Android.
European Union VS Tech Giants
In 2017 the commission imposed a €2.4bn (£2.1bn) penalty after finding that Google had used its dominant search engine to skew the market in favour of its internet shopping service. Google is appealing against that decision.
In a separate case, the commission has accused Google of blocking search-engine rivals on third-party websites. The case centres on Google’s AdSense product, which allows websites to install a customised search engine and benefit from advertising revenues.
Facebook, Intel, and Microsoft have all faced significant anti-competition fines from the European Commission. Microsoft was famously fined twice by the EU after the software maker failed to include a browser ballot in a Windows 7 update. Apple was also ordered to pay back $15.4 billion in taxes to the European Union.