On 18 July, 2018, the European Commission fined Google a record €4.3 billion fine for imposing restrictions on Android device makers and mobile network operators. It must now put an end to this conduct within 90 days or face penalty payments.
The commission’s Directorate-General for Competition formally launched the investigation in 2015, after receiving several complaints that accused the search giant of thwarting the access of rival apps on its Android open-source operating system. The enforcer sent Google a statement of objections in 2016.
The commission has now concluded that Google is dominant in the markets for general internet search services, licensable smart mobile operating systems and app stores for the Android mobile operating system. In particular, Google’s market shares are assumed to be:
- above 90% in general internet search services market in the European Economic Area;
- more than 95% in the worldwide market for licensable smart mobile operating systems;
- more than 90% in the market for app downloads on Android devices.
With respect to the abusive conduct, according to the Commission Google imposed three types of restrictions on mobile device manufacturers and network operators to ensure that traffic goes to Google Search:
- Google required manufacturers to pre-install the Google search and browser apps on devices running on the Android mobile operating system. Manufacturers had to do this if they wanted to be able to sell devices with the Google app store.
- Google paid manufacturers and network operators to make sure that only the Google search app was pre-installed on such devices.
- Google obstructed the development of competing mobile operating systems. These could have provided a platform for rival search engines to gain traffic.
In this way, Google has allegedly used Android as a vehicle to strengthen the dominance of its search engine and deny rivals the chance to innovate and compete on the merits.
The commission will now monitor the compliance closely, and Google is obliged to keep the enforcer informed of its progress on the remedy. If Google fails to comply, it would be liable for additional fines of up to 5% of the average daily worldwide turnover of its parent company Alphabet.