Brussels: The European Commission on Wednesday imposed on Google a record 4.34 billion euros ($5 billion) fine for illegally using Android mobile devices to strengthen dominance of Google’s search engine. Since 2011, Google has imposed illegal restrictions on Android device manufacturers and mobile network operators to cement its dominant position in general Internet search, the Commission said.
Google must now bring the conduct effectively to an end within 90 days or face additional penalty. “Our case is about three types of restrictions that Google has imposed on Android device manufacturers and network operators to ensure that traffic on Android devices goes to the Google search engine,” said Commissioner Margrethe Vestager who is in charge of competition policy.
“In this way, 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. They have denied European consumers the benefits of effective competition in the important mobile sphere. This is illegal under EU antitrust rules,” Vestager added.
In particular, Google has required manufacturers to pre-install the Google Search app and browser app (Chrome), as a condition for licensing Google’s app store (the Play Store). The company made payments to certain large manufacturers and mobile network operators on condition that they exclusively pre-installed the Google Search app on their devices.
The Commission also found that Google prevented manufacturers wishing to pre-install Google apps from selling even a single smart mobile device running on alternative versions of Android that were not approved by Google. Google obtains the vast majority of its revenues via its flagship product, the Google search engine.
The company understood early on that the shift from desktop PCs to mobile internet, which started in mid-2000, would be a fundamental change for Google Search. So, Google developed a strategy to anticipate the effects of this shift, and to make sure that users would continue to use Google Search also on their mobile devices, the Commission said.