More background on Google Android fine €4.34 ($5) billion

Tim Cowen, Counsel to ICOMP and partner at Preiskel & Co said

“The Commission’s decision shows that Google took a strategic decision to embed its dominant search engine and “cement” it into Android mobile phones. It also shows that Google has been breaking the law for many years. How Google now remedies the position is not specified. Unbundling of Search and Chrome from Android looks to be mandatory and unrestricted, fair reasonable and non-discriminatory access for third party apps to the Android platform also appears to be needed to meet the Commission’s charges. The record fine is a mark of the gravity and duration of the infringement.”

“The law requires that Google put forward a remedy- the industry will now wait with baited breath to see what that remedy will be – unbundling requires a policing mechanism and as with Google Shopping some degree of functional separation will be needed to police non-discriminatory access – the case for a greater functional separation of Google Search from other Google products is now stronger ”.

Following a 39-month investigation, the European Commission has finally announced its decision in the Android case, imposing a fine of €4.34 billion and requiring that Google bring an end to its infringing behaviour within 90 days or face penalty fines of up to 5% of the average daily worldwide turnover of their parent company, Alphabet.

The Commission’s investigation and decision focused on three issues.

First, Google required pre-installation of the Google Search and Browser ( chrome) as a condition for licencing the Google app store ( Play Store), which is an important marketplace for apps.

Second, Google paid manufacturers to ensure that only the Google Search app was installed on devices.

Third, Google obstructed the development of competing operating systems which could have provided a platform allowing for rival search engines to develop their offerings. 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 (so-called “Android forks”)

The Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, stated that, through such conduct, Google had

“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.”

The Commission found Google to be dominant in three markets:

  • the market for general internet search services (as was concluded in the Google Shopping Decision);
  • the market for licensable smart mobile operating systems; and
  • the market for app stores for the Android mobile operating system

Google has announced it will appeal against the Decision.

Read the Commission’s press release here

Watch today’s EC Google Android case decision and fine announcement recorded here