EU regulators have hit technology giant Google with a record €4.3-billion fine for allegedly using its Android mobile operating system to push our rivals.
The European Commission (EC) claims the US firm required manufacturers to pre-install its search and browser applications on new devices.
"A competitive mobile internet sector is increasingly important for consumers and businesses in Europe,” said Margrethe Vestager, who is in charge of competition policy for the commission.
“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 penalty is nearly double the €2.4 billion the US firm was ordered to pay last year over its online shopping search service.
The fine represents just over two weeks of revenue for Google parent Alphabet Inc. and would scarcely dent its cash reserves of $102.9 billion. But it could add to a brewing trade war between Brussels and Washington.
Google said it would appeal the fine.
“If you buy an Android phone, you’re choosing one of the world’s two most popular mobile platforms—one that has expanded the choice of phones available around the world,” said Google's chief executive Sundar Pichai
“Today, the European Commission issued a competition decision against Android, and its business model.
“The decision ignores the fact that Android phones compete with iOS phones, something that 89% of respondents to the Commission’s own market survey confirmed.
“It also misses just how much choice Android provides to thousands of phone makers and mobile network operators who build and sell Android devices; to millions of app developers around the world who have built their businesses with Android; and billions of consumers who can now afford and use cutting-edge Android smartphones.
“Today, because of Android, there are more than 24,000 devices, at every price point, from more than 1,300 different brands, including Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Latvian, Polish, Romanian, Spanish and Swedish phone makers.”
The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) said the technology giant claims Android is open source and can be used by anybody but that it’s actually “a highly-controlled ecosystem in which Google takes all at the expense of consumers and competition”.
“In competitive mobile markets, consumers should be able to make a meaningful choice between search engines and browsers and which apps they can download on their phones and tablets,” said BEUC’s director general, Monique Goyens.
“Google misuses its market power to push its own products. This is a clear restriction of competition which hurts European consumers.
“Because of Android’s dominance in the mobile market, it also impedes innovative, privacy-friendly services from succeeding. Google’s business model consists in hoovering up people’s personal data and its continued dominance means the privacy-invasive business model is here to stay.
“That Android is helpful for app developers, or that many consumers enjoy its stack of attractive services, does not justify an abuse of market power. In a healthy mobile market, consumers should be able to benefit from Google’s services but also those developed by competing companies.”