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Google tried to settle the EU’s Android antitrust probe last year

In a new interview with Margrethe Vestager, it is revealed that Google attempted to settle with the EU before the recent $5 billion fine.

Published onJuly 23, 2018

European Union antitrust czar Margrethe Vestager.
  • The European Commission just fined Google $5 billion for alleged antitrust issues within Android.
  • However, it was revealed today that Google attempted at least once to settle the fine before it dropped.
  • The settlement was rejected by the EU for being too little too late.

Last week, the European Commission levied the largest fine in history at Google’s feet for alleged antitrust problems within the Android operating system. Google swiftly responded with an explanation of its innocence and a commitment to appeal the $5 billion fine.

However, it appears that Google tried to settle the antitrust probe sometime last year, according to a report from Bloomberg. The source of the report is an interview with the European Union Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, pictured above.

Vestager is mainly responsible for both this most recent $5 billion fine against Google as well as a previous $2.7 billion fine in 2017 for alleged abuse of shopping results within Google Search.

According to Vestager, Google knew that the European Commission intended to issue a fine over Android antitrust issues since at least 2016. However, the company didn’t contact Vestager to work out a deal to avoid a penalty until sometime in 2017, around a year later (Vestager is not clear on the exact timeline).

Google does it best, and the EU ruling won't change that
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Vestager says that if a company is serious about dealing with antitrust allegations, it should “reach out immediately” after hearing those allegations. “That didn’t happen in this case, and then, of course, it takes the route that it has now taken,” she said of the settlement talks.

She then added that she is not surprised by Google’s inaction in this case.

Bloomberg reached out to Google for comment on these settlement attempts, but the company declined to give a statement.

According to anonymous sources with access to the communication between Google and Vestager, Google said it was prepared to make changes to Android to avoid the antitrust penalty. Some of the changes proposed were to adjust contracts Google has with OEMs and even possibly distributing its apps in different ways going forward.

However, according to Google’s lawyers who drafted and sent the proposal, Vestager and the EC didn’t respond. It wasn’t until months later that the team of lawyers heard via phone that the plan wasn’t considered and was no longer an option.

Although Google plans to appeal the $5 billion fine, it is not clear how long that process will take or what the likelihood of Google’s success could be.

NEXT: Google vs the EU: Which side are you on?

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