Google hit with record $5 billion EU fine over Android antitrust practices

Android is the most popular mobile software in the world.


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The European Commission issued Google with a record fine of 4.34 billion euros ($5 billion) on Wednesday due to antitrust violations over its Android mobile operating system, confirmed Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager in a press conference.

The EU is concerned that Google’s agreements with phone makers such as Huawei, Samsung and LG are putting those companies at a disadvantage since they’re so completely dependent on Android. The agreements stipulate that certain Google apps and search tools, as well as the Google Play Store must be pre-installed on Android devices, which allows Google to preserve and strengthen its dominance in search.

Most of all, the EU is worried that this harms you, the consumer, by restricting your choice and preventing innovation that could lead to better alternative mobile experiences for you in the future.

“Google has used Android as a vehicle to cement the dominance of its search engine,” said Vestager in a statement. “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 said Wednesday it intends to appeal.

“Android has created more choice for everyone, not less,” said a spokesman for the company in a statement. “A vibrant ecosystem, rapid innovation, and lower prices are classic hallmarks of robust competition. We will appeal the Commission’s decision.”

It’s the second such fine the EU has slapped on the tech giant in just over a year and could mean big changes to the world’s most popular platform. The punishment comes amid wider scrutiny over the power that tech giants like Google and Facebook wield over our lives. 

Google, however, argues that by providing Android software free of charge to device makers it’s enabled the proliferation of cheap phones, and in doing so, increasing access to online services. It also points out that if users want to download rival services they are free to do so.

The EU’s investigation into Android dominance dates back to 2016, and it’s not the only charge the Commission has leveled at Google. In June 2017, it fined Google $2.7 billion for abusing the way it prioritizes its own shopping results in search, bringing the total sum accrued in fines by the company within the EU to $7.2 billion over the course of just 13 months. 

But the impact of the EU’s decision to fine Google over Android dominance could be more than just monetary. Google could be forced to open up Android, which would mean not forcing manufacturers to pre-install Google services including Chrome, YouTube and Google Maps.

For phone owners within Europe, it could mean that when they get a new phone it may come with fewer services pre-installed, or the manufacturer’s own choice of apps and services rather than the regular Google options. For Google, which benefits financially when more people use its services, this could have a knock-on effect on ad revenue.

Spokespeople for Google and the EU’s Competition Commission did not immediately respond to request for comment.

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