Google Accused of Antitrust Violations in Europe (again)

by Matt Klassen on April 21, 2016

android_umbrella-100607578-primary.idgeSeveral years ago Google ran afoul of the European Commission over its domination of the search market, to the point where regulators starting calling for the dismantling of Google (which we’ve now seen, in part, with the creation of Alphabet and the subsequent corporate reshuffling) in an effort to break the company’s monopoly. The concern at the time was that Google was using its influence to stifle competition, reduce consumer choice, and ultimately violate Europe’s antitrust laws.

Fast-forward to today and it looks like the exact same story is being played out yet again, except this time it’s taking place in the mobile arena and Android sits front and centre. To that end, the EC announced that it has informed Google of its “preliminary view” that the tech company has “abused its dominant position by imposing restrictions on Android device manufacturers and mobile network operators”, and has broken EU antitrust rules.

Simply put, by offering Android as a free, open source platform and by subsequently forcing conditions on its Android partners regarding the use of the platform regarding the installation of default apps, Google is violating antitrust laws, and according to the Commission, “this conduct ultimately harms consumers because they are not given as wide a choice as possible and because it stifles innovation.”

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “Based on our investigation thus far, we believe that Google’s behaviour denies consumers a wider choice of mobile apps and services and stands in the way of innovation by other players, in breach of EU antitrust rules.”

The Commission alleges that Google has breached antitrust laws by specifically doing the following:

  • By requiring Android manufacturers to pre-install Google Search and Google’s Chrome browser, and by requiring them to set these as default services as a condition to use certain proprietary Google apps and services;
  • Preventing manufacturers from selling mobile devices running competing operating systems based on Android;
  • Giving financial incentives for manufacturers and network operators that they exclusively pre-install Google Search on their mobile devices.

In regards to the first point of contention, the Commission has found that in order for manufacturers to access Google Play, the Android app store, they have to agree to pre-installing Google’s search engine and setting it to default.

In regards to the second, if partners want access to Google Play and Search, they have to enter into an “Anti-Fragmentation Agreement,” which states they won’t sell devices running on alternative “forks,” (modified versions) of Android.

“Google’s conduct has had a direct impact on consumers, as it has denied them access to innovative smart mobile devices based on alternative, potentially superior, versions of the Android operating system,” it said.

Finally, by paying companies to include its apps and services by default, “Google has thereby reduced the incentives of manufacturers and mobile network operators to pre-install competing search services on the devices they market.”

All that to say, Google has certainly been leveraging the dominance of Android to help deploy its various services, with such massive distribution that in many cases people don’t know that alternative search engines or navigation services or app stores or what you, even exist, and it’s this level of market domination that the European Commission is attempting to put an end to.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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