After a year of probing and investigating, the European Commission has finally decided to file official charges against Google for anti-competitive behavior. The filing relates to Google’s grip over the Android ecosystem and accuses the search giant of hindering its competitors from developing Android forks and rivals to its own applications.
The Commission has come to the “preliminary view” that Android unfairly favours Google, as the company pre-installs its own search engine and Chrome web browser by default on smartphones and tablets. This is particularly troublesome as Google does so as a condition in order to license certain other apps and has be found to be offering financial incentives to manufacturers and network operators to pre-install its own services. For example, the Commissions takes exception to the contracts that require Chrome to be pre-installed on devices in order to pre-load the Play Store.
Furthermore, the investigation believes that Google’s actions prevent manufacturers from selling mobile devices running forked Android operating systems. The commission drew specific notice to the “Anti-Fragmentation Agreement,” which companies must sign if they want to sell devices running a modified version of the Android operating sytem.
“Our preliminary view is that Google has abused its dominant positions in these three markets. Its strategy to protect and strengthen its dominance in general internet search has two main elements: First, the practices mean that Google Search is pre-installed and set as the default, or exclusive, search service on most Android devices sold in Europe. Second, the practices close off ways for rival search engines to access the market, via competing mobile browsers and operating systems.” – Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s commissioner for competition
Google was quick to reply to the decision, issuing an almost immediate response titled “Android’s Model of Open Innovation,” in which the company defends its practises as good for competition and consumers.
US technology companies are having a tough time fighting the European Commission’s various antitrust and tax avoidance rules lately. Margrethe Vestager, the competition commissioner, is currently overseeing cases against Apple, Amazon, Google, and Qualcomm.
This is just the opening stages of the case, so Google has time to defends itself from the accusations before the Commission rules on whether or not Google has broken its antitrust rules. If Google is found to have breached the rules, it could be fined up to 10 percent of the previous financial year’s turnover, which would come to $74.5 billion. Although this would be a particularly large fine. Google has 12 weeks in which to respond.