EU hits Google with record €4.34bn fine for 'very serious illegal behaviour' in Android antitrust case

Android on smartphone

The European Commission has fined Google a record €4.34 billion ($5 billion) in an antitrust case that saw the company accused of using Android as a "vehicle to cement its dominance as a search engine".

The Commission said that Google forced phone makers to pre-install its software on their handsets, taking advantage of Android's popularity, and breaching European antitrust rules. The EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager summed things up by saying Google has been "denying rivals a chance to innovate and compete on the merits".

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The fine is the largest Europe has ever handed out, but as Reuters points out Google's parent company Alphabet Inc has cash reserves of $102.9 billion, and €4.34 billion -- despite being a large sum of money -- represents just over two weeks' revenue.

Vestager said that Google broke anti-competition rules by requiring phone manufacturers to install its search tool and browser apps or else be locked out of using Google Play. The company was also criticized for paying network operators and phone manufacturers to make its search app the only one installed on handsets.

She said:

Google has used Android as a vehicle to cement its dominance as a search engine. These practices have denied rivals a chance to innovate and to compete on the merits. They have denied European consumers the benefit of effective competition in the very important mobile sphere. And this is illegal under EU antitrust rules.

Vestager said that manufacturers were effectively restricted from creating forks of Android thanks to the fact that Google required such manufacturers to enter into obstructive contracts if they also wanted to make use of proprietary Android apps and services.

Google has prevented device manufacturers from using any alternative version of Android that was not approved by Google (Android forks).

In order to be able to pre-install on their devices Google’s proprietary apps, including the Play Store and Google Search, manufacturers had to commit not to develop or sell even a single device running on an Android fork.

The Commission found that this conduct was abusive as of 2011, which is the date Google became dominant in the market for app stores for the Android mobile operating system.

In a tweet, Google indicated that it intends to lodge an appeal against the fine:

CEO Sundar Pichai used a blog post to share his belief that "Android has created more choice, not less", saying:

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 percent 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.

He also disagrees with the suggestion that users are tied into using Google apps:

Today, because of Android, a typical phone comes preloaded with as many as 40 apps from multiple developers, not just the company you bought the phone from. If you prefer other apps -- or browsers, or search engines -- to the preloaded ones, you can easily disable or delete them, and choose other apps instead, including apps made by some of the 1.6 million Europeans who make a living as app developers.

In fact, a typical Android phone user will install around 50 apps themselves. Last year, over 94 billion apps were downloaded globally from our Play app store; browsers such as Opera Mini and Firefox have been downloaded more than 100 million times, UC Browser more than 500 million times.

Regardless of what Pichai thinks, Google has 90 days make amends or it risks incurring further penalty charges -- which could amount to up to 5 percent of Alphabet's daily turnover each day.

Image credit: quietbits / Shutterstock

31 Responses to EU hits Google with record €4.34bn fine for 'very serious illegal behaviour' in Android antitrust case

  1. MyDisqussion says:

    Nobody is complaining that there isn’t a fork of Windows X

    • Captain555 says:

      What's next ? They are going to fine MS for forcing users to use Cortana and Bing in W10 ? LOL

      • Actually, years ago, the EU beat up Microsoft for installing both Internet Explorer and Media Player as part of Windows. They were forced to make an "N" version of Windows that did not include Media Player and options to install other browsers. They still do this to this day. I think Korea also made similar objections but I don't recall seeing a "K" version of Windows 10.

        Perhaps Microsoft will be next on the agenda for bundling Bing and Cortana with Windows 10.

    • TechFan says:

      I don't think you are understanding what the European Commission is saying hear.

      In short, Google is doing exactly what Microsoft did in the 80's and 90's to get dominance. It's also why Samsung, and others, say they hate Google, as they are in short a corporate bully.

      • Captain555 says:

        Microsoft and Apple are doing the exact same thing.

      • Patrick Gallagher says:

        Not even close to true.

        Microsoft doesn't require every company that sells windows products to not install alternative products on the PC prior to sale, and every company that sells windows PCs loads them with crapware of all kinds. Most do sell "certified" clean builds, but those aren't the norm.

        Nobody else makes or sells Apple products - consumers can do whatever they want with the devices when they purchase them.

        They can also do that with Android, but with Android most are sold by companies that are not google, and none pay for Android licensing. That's up to the customer, who pay with their privacy, or lack thereof, and the lack of updates that comes with the out of control shit show that is Android.

      • TechFan says:

        If they did, Windows 10 Mobile would be king. If they did, Xbox would be equal in sales as PS4. The list goes on. MS was forced to change, and almost when through a rebirth with Ballmer left (for good or bad).

      • John says:

        Even if the Multiverse is true Techy there is NO world in which WM is King, NONE at all.

      • TechFan says:

        I would have agreed with you when Windows 10 came out, and Windows 10 Mobile. But I used it for a couple months when my Android broke - I prefer the OS over iOS on the phone. But Apps are king.

      • async2013 says:

        Hear? You are controlling an it dept of 25000 people? Really? What crumby planet is that on?

      • Ace Rimmer ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ says:

        Those homophones do see to trip people up. Your buddy Psycros (psycros?) still can't seem manage they're, there, and their.

      • TechFan says:

        I work at a company with 25,000 employees (and growing). IT Department in the USA is about 400. I control just a small group in the big picture but work with on a ton of projects with other managers.

        Not sure what your post has to do with Google behaving badly?

      • TechFan says:

        LOL - I got a down vote because I work at a large company - too funny.

      • MyDisqussion says:

        Certainly users in the EU know how to download alternate browsers? Or to use alternate app stores?

      • TechFan says:

        There is a lot more to this, including being forced a lot of crap just the manufactures don't want to install.

      • realDonaldTrump says:

        Everyone who uses an Android phone should be getting Google's stock experience by default regardless of phone manufacturer. If manufacturers want to include their own skin and other apps then they should be downloaded during initial setup through Google's Virtual Preload feature so users can uninstall the phone manufacturer's apps/skins if they want to.

      • realDonaldTrump says:

        Google isn't hurting anyone financially like Microsoft did though. Google is just unfairly being fined.

      • realDonaldTrump says:

        Bundling your own browser and search engine doesn't hurt anyone financially so long as users have the option to use something else.

  2. Georgia Little says:

    I don't like google very much at all but the 4th Reich (EU) is insane. Google should shut down everything it can in evil empire and let the rest to rot. Google should not collude with these parasites. Obviously they have used all squandered their resources to enrich the elites who don't want to share theirs. In a way, I feel sorry for the serfs who traded their freedom for pathetic pseudo security.

    • Adrian S says:

      Do you realise how much money Google would lose if they shut down their operation in the E.U? The E.u is a combination of countries, there are a lot of countries in the E.U, ok there will hopefully be one less by next year, but still a lot of countries.

      People, certainly people in the U.S, do not realise how many countries are in the E.U and how big they are. But then that is the problem with Americans, they live in their bubble and forget there is a worlds outside their country. Not all, but a lot of them. Just because the U.S.A is a big country, it still need the rest the world to survive, even if that prat Trump do not realise.

      • Georgia Little says:

        You need to look long term. Europe has attempted this before about 80 years ago and they paid a heavy price.

      • Adrian S says:

        Europe is a completely different place than it was 80 years ago and it was not Europe, it was one country that started it and it was not even that country that attacked the U.S to draw them in, that was Japan.

        i do not agree with the U.K being in the E.U, which is why I voted for us to get out, only because I think we should have control over our own country, the original idea of the common market/EEC was good, the problem is now it have gone beyond that and Germany/France have far too much power in it.

        I also do not agree that the e.U have kept peace in Europe, what have kept peace or close to it anyway is the fact we all have Nukes now.

        The U.s would not even have got involved if the Japanese did not bomb the U.S

  3. Ace Rimmer ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ says:

    Too late, EU. The damage has been done. It could have been a much more competitive and interesting market if you had done this 5 years ago.

  4. realDonaldTrump says:

    Some countries do have dumb laws. This tops them all. Google hasn't hurt anyone in the world financially. This fine is excessive.

    • Adrian S says:

      Yeah maybe so, but it seems like you are as ignorant as the person the you named yourself after. The E.u is not a country, Juncker and Tusk may like to think it is, but it is not,
      I do agree the fine is excessive.

  5. Farmers (Mansfield) says:

    I really don't see what Google needs to put right here. Android works perfectly well just the way it is as far as I'm concerned. I suppose the EU are now going to force Google to force a 'choice' upon users now, just like they did to MS with the idiotic 'Browser Choice' that they forced everybody to endure. And why just go after Google? Don't MS force Windows 10 users to have Cortana tied to Bing? And doesn't Cortana open everything in Edge in total disregard for the user's own preferences?

    • Adrian S says:

      Browser choice was a good idea and should have been kept to be honest, it allowed people to make a choice. Too many people use to think that Internet Exploder was the internet, Browser choice gave these people a choice they did not know they had.

  6. realDonaldTrump says:

    Manufacturers and OEMs are not the victims here. Google is the victim. Google's preloaded apps are not the bloatware. It's the manufacturers and OEMs that are trying to replace Google's apps with bloatware, not the other way around.

    • D_Flag says:

      Google is the victim

      ROTFLOL. Apologize much?

      We are all victims of Google. 5bln doesn't even begin to cover the damage they've done.

      • realDonaldTrump says:

        Google hasn't harmed any European country financially nor have they harmed any European business financially. They most certainly haven't caused you any harm. There are a lot of crazy people out there who love to collect money from companies that they aren't owed. I'm just glad I'm not one of them.

  7. Adrian S says:

    I am in two different minds here, in one way I can see where the E.U is going on this. On my Huawie p10 lite phone, the first thing to greet me on the home screen is the Google search bar and no doubt Huawie was told by Google it needs to be there, but I can get rid of it, I can choose a different search engine and a different launcher. But a lot of people won't, either because they do not know how to, or know that they can or can't be bothered. That is the problem is that people do not know how to get rid of these apps or search engines.
    It does annoy me that some apps I can disable, but not uninstall.

    But is this not the same thing with MS? After all on windows 10 Cortana will only use bing, there are apps that can not be uninstalled and no doubt Ms tells OEM what apps need to be default.

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