The European Union led by its Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager has concluded an investigation onto what they say is an antitrust case regarding Android mobile devices which they say was designed to strengthen the dominance of Google’s Search Engine. It is because of this that they have fined Google a massive €4.3b or about $5b.
Google they say has forced phone makers over the years to include its own apps in their devices and the EU has determined that this practise is unfair and has given Google an undue advantage over its competitors.
This is the second time in two years that the European regulators would be slamming a fine in the billions on the American tech giant. Back in June 2017, Google was fined $2.7b for unfairly redirecting users to its own shopping platform before it gives others a choice. This means that Google was accused of relegating links of rival services to areas where users are less likely to click while prioritising its services.
The problem with today’s ruling for Google it must comply with the ruling within 90 days which means they it must remove its apps from Android and can no longer force phone makers to pre-install its apps.
In a statement that Commissioner Vestager released, she said “Today, mobile internet makes up more than half of global internet traffic. It has changed the lives of millions of Europeans. Our case is about three types of restrictions that Google has imposed on Android device manufacturers and network operators to ensure that traffic on Android devices goes to the Google search engine. In this way, Google has used Android as a vehicle to cement the dominance of its search engine. These practices have denied rivals the chance to innovate and compete on the merits. They have denied European consumers the benefits of effective competition in the important mobile sphere. This is illegal under EU antitrust rules.“
Google had tried by means of lobbying to move the ruling in its favour to no avail even as it faces other problems in Europe especially in the area of taxes and handling of content online.
Google is not alone when it comes to fines from the Europe, Facebook (including its acquisition WhatsApp), Apple and Amazon have all come under the hammer on issues ranging from taxes to privacy. Apple like its counterparts is appealing a ruling requiring it to pay about $14b in taxes to the Irish government after the EU said Apple was given preferential and unfair treatment by the Irish government.
Today’s ruling against Google is a result of two years of investigation and Google now says it will appeal the ruling. Google says that Android since its launch in 2007 has “created more choice not less.” Al Verney, the Search giant’s spokesman in a statement said “A vibrant ecosystem, rapid innovation and lower prices are classic hallmarks of robust competition. We will appeal the Commission’s decision.”
Google’s side of the story is that the Android revolution has seen more manufacturers jump into the smartphone business than ever and has allowed many of these phone makers make low cost phones which has directly increased the number of people with access to technology. This competition can be seen in the number of low cost smartphones especially in the developing world where many may not have been able to afford Apple’s high end phones. This competition has improved the world and should be left alone according to them.
Well the EU begs to differ and we can only wait and see what happens in future.