Google has come under fire again for its oppressive business tactics. This time, the European Commission has fined it €4.3bn ($4.9bn; £3.8bn) for practices that ‘denied the chance to innovate and compete.’
The fine was for allegedly using the Android operating system to ‘cement its dominance’ as a search engine.
A further backlash could come if Google does not change its practices.
Google’s appeal could take several years.
‘We have now filed our appeal,’ the company said in a statement reported by the Financial Times.
What was Google accused of?
Google was accused of acting illegally because:
- it required Android handset and tablet manufacturers to pre-install the Google Search app and its own web browser Chrome as a condition for allowing them to offer access to its Play app store
- it made payments to large manufacturers and mobile network operators so that they agreed to exclusively pre-install the Google Search app on their devices
- it prevented manufacturers from selling any smart devices powered by alternative ‘forked’ versions of Android by threatening to refuse them permission to pre-install its apps
While the Google Android version does not prohibit device owners from downloading alternative web browsers or use other search engines, only 1% of users downloaded a competing search app and 10% a different browser,’ said Margrethe Vestager, EU’s Competition Commissioner.
‘Once you have it, it is working, very few are curious enough to look for another search app or browser,’ she said in July.
Google chief executive, Sundar Pichai, said Android had enabled ‘rapid innovation, wide choice, and falling prices.’
He said the decision ‘rejects the business model that supports Android, which has created more choice for everyone, not less.’
The company was given until the end of October to make changes to Android that would satisfy the EU’s demands. It told the Financial Times that it had no plans to ask the EU to change that deadline.
In 2017, Google faced similar complaints from the Russian regulator.
It now offers Android users in Russia a choice between Google, Yandex, and Mail.ru as the default search engine the first time they use the Chrome browser.
Yandex, in particular, appears to have benefited from this change.
Since the change in June 2017, the Moscow-based company has seen its share of mobile search rise from about 34% to 46%, according to Statcounter.