Google has been ordered to pay a $5 billion fine for the violation of European Union (EU) antitrust laws following an investigation that spanned three years. The EU charges the tech giant with forcing companies who manufacture Android phones to pre-install the Google Search application and the Chrome web browser. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy and has earned a reputation for her scrutiny of practices in the Silicon Valley, explained.
“Google has used Android as a vehicle to cement the dominance of its search engine. These practices have denied rivals the chance to innovate and compete on the merits.”
Business Insider reports this is the biggest antitrust fine ever given by the EU against a single business.
The EU said that Google offers their apps and services to manufacturers as a bundle, prohibiting the ability to use some but not all of their services. Specifically, they charged that Google has forced Android makers to put its search app and its Chrome browser on their phones as a condition for licensing the Google Play app store. It also charged that Google has made illegal payments to Android manufacturers and mobile network operators in exchange for them installing only the Google search engine, obstructing the ability of other search engines to compete. The last specific charge related to this latest fine is that Google kept manufacturers who wanted to pre-install their apps from selling mobile devices that run on “Android forks,” which are versions of Android not approved by Google.
A Google spokesperson stated, “Android has created more choice for everyone, not less. A vibrant ecosystem, rapid innovation, and lower prices are classic hallmarks of robust competition.” The corporation plans to appeal the decision. Android is the most popular mobile software globally. ZDNet reports that about 80 percent of smart mobile devices across the world run on Android.
This is the third major investigation into Google by the EU and the second time they have imposed a fine upon Google; the first being last year when they fined them $2.72 billion for another antitrust violation caused by its use of its internet search service to promote its shopping service in an improper manner. The technology firm is also appealing that fine. Another investigation is currently underway that is looking at Google’s AdSense technology and whether it unfairly establishes its dominance in online advertising.
Previous decisions by Margrethe Vestager include one against Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp and one into Apple’s purchase of Shazam.