EU fines Google $5 billion over Android antitrust abuse

Google's logo at the company's exhibition stand at the Dmexco conference in Cologne, Germany in September 2016
EU regulators expected to fine Google $5 billion
  

European Union regulators have slapped Alphabet-owned Google with a 4.34 billion euro ($5 billion) antitrust fine for abusing the dominance of its Android mobile operating system, which is by far the most popular smartphone OS in the world. The European Commission, the EU’s executive body, ordered the company to put an end to illegal conduct within 90 days, or else face additional charges of up to 5 percent of Alphabet’s average daily worldwide revenue. The EU fine is the largest ever issued to Google, which was slapped with a $2.7 billion penalty for favoring its shopping service over competitors last year. Google said in a statement that it would appeal the ruling, arguing against the EU’s view that its software is restrictive of fair competition. European officials say Google’s parent company has unfairly favored its own services by forcing smartphone makers to pre-install Google apps like Chrome and Search in a bundle with its app store, Play. It also said Google violated competition rules by sometimes paying phone makers to exclusively pre-install Google search on their devices or sign agreements not to sell phones that run other modified, or “forked,” versions of Android.  The EU first opened its investigation into Android in 2015, two years after receiving a complaint from FairSearch, which, at the time, included the likes of Microsoft and Nokia.

European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager speaks during a news conference at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, April 15, 2015.
Francois Lenoir | Reuters European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager speaks during a news conference at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, April 15, 2015.

Google has previously denied these accusations, arguing that phone makers still have plenty of choice and that bundling search and other apps with Play has ultimately allowed it to provide its services for free. In a news conference on Wednesday, Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition commissioner, reiterated the argument presented in the decision. She said Google’s model “prevents device manufacturers from using any alternative version of Android that was not used by Google.” “Our decision stops Google from controlling which search and browser apps manufacturers can pre-install on Android devices or which Android operating system they can adopt,” she said.

The commission is still investigating a third antitrust case against Google’s search advertising service, AdSense.