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European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager addresses a news conference on Google in Brussels
Image: European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager addresses a news conference on Google in Brussels. REUTERS/Yves Herman

EU Fines Google £3.8 Billion for Android Antitrust Violations

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Image: European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager addresses a news conference on Google in Brussels. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Google is now facing £3.8 billion in antitrust violations for the way Android functions in most phones.

The European Union has fined the American tech giant for making its search engine the default.

Market Dominance Abuse

According to the European Union, Google has abused its dominance over the mobile operating system market. The E.U. has issued a £3.8 billion (€4.34 billion) fine. The penalty was applied at the close of a 39 month investigation.

The probe discovered that Google was pre-installing its browser app and search engine on most Android based devices. It wasn’t the presence of the browser app and default search engine that brought about the fines as much as the fact that those options needed to be there for users to be able to access Google Play, the official Android online store and streaming service.

EU’s Competition Laws

Google used its popular Android mobile device operating system “to cement its dominance as a search engine”, preventing rivals from innovating and competing “and this is illegal under EU antitrust rules,” said E.U. Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager. “The vast majority of users simply take what comes with their device and don’t download competing apps.”

“Or to slightly paraphrase what [US free market economist] Milton Friedman has said ‘there ain’t no such thing as a free search,” Vestager later added in a tweet.

Google was fined for 3 types of illegal restrictions on the way the operating system is being used. The E.U. states that it is through these methods that Google has created and assured mobile O.S. market dominance.

Three Legal Violations

The three ways in which the E.U. asserts its competition laws were broken following the lengthy investigation by competition authorities were first identified in April 2016.

The first was installing Google as the default search engine on most Android devices. The second was preventing smartphone manufacturers from being able to run rival operating systems. The third was in removing consumer choice by providing phone operators and manufacturers with financial incentives for Google Search pre-installation.

Google to Seek Appeal

Google responded by saying that users can delete the company’s apps from their devices. It also strongly defended its mobile O.S. practices. For instance, it said that the open-source operating system “keeps manufacturers’ costs low and their flexibility high, while giving consumers unprecedented control of their mobile devices.”

Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Alvexo on the matter.