Risk & Compliance

EU Fines Google $5B Over Android Restrictions

The European Commission says Google has engaged in anticompetitive practices to "cement the dominance of its search engine" on Android devices.
Matthew HellerJuly 18, 2018
EU Fines Google $5B Over Android Restrictions

The EU’s antitrust regulator has fined Google a record 4.3 billion euros ($5.03 billion) over anticompetitive practices aimed at ensuring it dominates the search engine market on Android mobile devices.

After a long-running investigation, the European Commission said Wednesday it had concluded that Google is dominant in general internet search throughout the EU and has secured that dominance by imposing by imposing illegal restrictions on Android device manufacturers and network operators.

According to Digital Trends, Google search commands around 95% of the search engine market on Android devices, while Android itself makes up 80% of the smartphone market.

“Google has used Android as a vehicle to cement the dominance of its search engine,” EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a news release. “These practices have denied rivals the chance to innovate and compete on the merits.”

The fine exceeds the previous record of 2.4 billion ($2.81 billion) euros that the EU imposed on Google last year for using its search engine to skew the market in favor of its online shopping comparison service.

The company has 90 days to change its business practices or face further penalties of up to 5% of its average global daily turnover. But Google is planning to appeal.

“Android has created more choice for everyone, not less,” a Google spokesperson said.

The commission said Google had achieved search engine market dominance by, among other things, requiring manufacturers to pre-install Google search as the default search engine on Android devices, as a condition for licensing Google’s app store, Play Store.

Google has argued that Android does not prevent device owners from downloading alternative web browsers or using other search engines. But Vestager said only 1% of Android device users download a competing search app, and 10% a different browser.

“Once you have it, it is working, very few are curious enough to look for another search app or browser,” she told reporters.

The European Commission first began scrutinizing Android in April 2015. It said Google had also acted unfairly by preventing smartphone makers from running competing systems that had not been approved by Google.

Photo: Getty Images