Following last year’s record-breaking fine, the European Commission (EC) is believed to be set to hit Google with another fine. This time over its abuse of its market dominance of smartphone platforms.
According to the news agency Reuters, the EC will force Google to remove restrictions on competitive apps in an effort to free-up the market for Google’s rivals.
In particular, anti-competitive practices such as licensing deals which prevent smartphone makers from promoting alternatives to apps such as Google Search and Maps.
Back in 2016 the EC sent a formal Statement of Objections to Google. In it they accused Google of forcing smartphone manufacturers to pre-install Google Search and the Chrome browser as a pre-condition of licensing any Google apps they may actually want.
The EU also accused Google of stopping Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) from running open Android devices. And finally, the EC alleged that Google gave financial incentives to operators and phone-makers to pre-install their search.
OEMs are manufacturers who resell other company’s products under their own name and branding.
It transpired that Google enforced these anti-competitive practices through an ‘anti-fragmentation agreement’ which they had introduced as far back as 2011. Then they looked to tighten control over devices especially over alternates to Google Search, such as Bing.
At the time, the likes of LG, Toshiba and Samsung took complaints to the US Department of Justice. While Microsoft requested the European Union begin anti-trust investigations alleging it was acting in a way that unfairly prevented competition.
Last year the EC fined Google a record-breaking €2.4 billion for what they described as abusing their market dominance by manipulating its search engine results to favour its own comparison shopping service. The fine followed a seven-year investigation by European investigators.
The EC accused Google of artificially and illegally promoting its own price comparison services, denying consumers real choice and rival firms the ability to compete. During the probe investigators found that Google had been dominant in general internet search markets in all 31 countries in the European Economic Area, with a market share of 90%.
As a result of Google’s restrictive and illegal practices, traffic to Google’s price comparison shopping services increased significantly. The investigators found evidence of sudden drops of traffic to rival websites in the UK of 85%, 92% in Germany and 80% in France.
The EU is in the final stages of the Android probe and could issue their latest fine as soon as next month.
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