European Union competition commission likely to charge Google with antitrust charges over Android
The European Commission (EC) is getting ready to hit Google with anti-competitive charges for allegedly offering unfair deals to Android phone makers in order to keep its own services on top, according to two people briefed on the investigation.
The Financial Times reports that tight deadlines given to four lawyers suggest that the EC, the bloc’s antitrust watchdog, will issue the “statement of objections” against Google around noon on Wednesday, the two people said, although the process could still take slightly longer.
EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager said on Tuesday that the commission was concentrating on Google’s demand that smartphone makers and mobile carriers using Android load Google apps on their devices if they offer any of the company’s services—including search—on their phones.
In its contracts, Google requires phone makers to pre-install a folder of 11 apps within one flick of the home screen.
This will be the EC’s second antitrust case against Google assuming charges are filed. The Commission began a second investigation after previously finding Google guilty of abusing its dominance in search to promote its own services over those of competitors. This one is focused on whether Google uses its control of Android to force smartphone manufacturers to favour its own apps over rival ones.
In its statement last year, the commission said: “The majority of smartphone and tablet manufacturers?.?.?.?use the Android operating system in combination with a range of Google’s proprietary applications and services. In order to obtain the right to install these applications and services on their Android devices, manufacturers need to enter into certain agreements with Google.”
If Google was charged and the eventual ruling goes against the company, the potential penalty could be severe: the EU could impose fines as high as 10% of the company’s annual global revenue, which would amount to more than $7billion.
Speaking on Tuesday, Vestager said that she was worried Google was shutting out rival app developers with the contracts because it prohibited consumers from allowing them to decide for themselves which apps to download.
However, Google had hit back, saying that consumers have the last word about which apps they want to use on their devices.
The antitrust case targeted at Android represents one of the most serious tests Google has yet faced from regulators, threatening an online-advertising machine that generated more than $67 billion in revenue last year.