Italian Watchdog Fines Google in Antitrust Case

The Italian Competition Authority said Google abused its dominant market position by excluding a third-party app from Android Auto.
Matthew HellerMay 13, 2021
Italian Watchdog Fines Google in Antitrust Case

Italy’s competition watchdog has fined Google 102 million euros ($123 million) for excluding a third-party app from its Android Auto in-car assistant. In announcing it had sanctioned Google for abuse of a dominant market position, the Italian Competition Authority (Autorita’ Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato) faulted the tech giant for not allowing Enel X Italia to develop a version of its JuicePass app for Android Auto.

Like Google Maps, JuicePass enables drivers of electric vehicles to locate compatible charging stations.

“By refusing Enel X Italia interoperability with Android Auto, Google has unfairly limited the possibilities for end users to avail themselves of the Enel X Italia app when driving and recharging an electric vehicle,” AGCM said in a news release.

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It also noted that Google had “consequently favored its own Google Maps app,” which is “currently limited to finding and getting directions to reach charging points, but which in the future could include other functionalities such as reservation and payment.”

The Italian fine is the latest in a series of European antitrust enforcement actions against Google. In 2018, the European Union fined the company $5.1 billion for abusing its power in the mobile phone market. According to AGCM, Google has a dominant position that allows it to control the access of app developers to end users, with about three quarters of smartphones in Italy using the Android operating system.

TechCrunch reported that Google “claims the restrictions it places on apps’ access to Android Auto are necessary to ensure drivers are not distracted. It also told us that it has been opening up the platform to more apps over time — with ‘thousands’ now compatible.”

But the Italian regulator said JuicePass had been excluded from Android Auto for more than two years and “if it were to continue, could permanently jeopardize Enel X Italia’s chances of building a solid user base at a time of significant growth in sales of electric vehicles. … Google’s conduct could influence the development of electric mobility in a crucial phase of its launch,” AGCM warned.