The European Commission released a statement on fining Google €4.34 billion for illegal practices regarding Android mobile devices to strengthen dominance of Google’s search engine.
The European Commission has fined Google €4.34 billion for breaching EU antitrust rules. Since 2011, Google has imposed illegal restrictions on Android device manufacturers and mobile network operators to cement its dominant position in general internet search.
1. Illegal tying of Google’s search and browser apps
First, the tying of the Google Search app. As a result, Google has ensured that its Google Search app is pre-installed on practically all Android devices sold in the EEA. Search apps represent an important entry point for search queries on mobile devices. The Commission has found this tying conduct to be illegal as of 2011, which is the date Google became dominant in the market for app stores for the Android mobile operating system.
Second, the tying of the Google Chrome browser. As a result, Google has ensured that its mobile browser is pre-installed on practically all Android devices sold in the EEA. Browsers also represent an important entry point for search queries on mobile devices and Google Search is the default search engine on Google Chrome. The Commission found this tying conduct to be illegal as of 2012, which is the date from which Google has included the Chrome browser in its app bundle.
2. Illegal payments conditional on exclusive pre-installation of Google Search
Google granted significant financial incentives to some of the largest device manufacturers as well as mobile network operators on condition that they exclusively pre-installed Google Search across their entire portfolio of Android devices. This harmed competition by significantly reducing their incentives to pre-install competing search apps.
3. Illegal obstruction of development and distribution of competing Android operating systems
Google has prevented device manufacturers from using any alternative version of Android that was not approved by Google (Android forks). In order to be able to pre-install on their devices Google’s proprietary apps, including the Play Store and Google Search, manufacturers had to commit not to develop or sell even a single device running on an Android fork. The Commission found that this conduct was abusive as of 2011, which is the date Google became dominant in the market for app stores for the Android mobile operating system.
Would this reverse the damage done given how users are now conditioned to these settings and mobile manufacturers don’t have any decent OS alternatives to turn to?