EU regulators want Google to stop forcing Android hardware makers to install its search and software
EU antitrust regulators are reportedly planning to order Google to stop paying Android handset makers to install Google search and software on their devices, and are warning the search giant of a large fine, according to unreleased government documents.
The European Commission said in an official complaint, called a statement of objections, that it wants Google to stop payments and discounts to manufacturers in exchange for pre-installing Google Play Store with Google Search, according to a report by Reuters on Saturday.
The Commission also reportedly wants Google to stop forcing manufacturers to pre-install proprietary Google applications if this restricts their ability to use competing Android-based operating systems.
Google “cannot punish or threaten” companies who don’t follow its rules, the document said.
The company could face a large fine because the anti-competitive practices are still ongoing, according to the complaint. It said the fine could be based on factors such as the revenue generated by European Play Store app purchases or AdMob in-app advertisements.
“The Commission intends to set the fine at a level which will be sufficient to ensure deterrence,” the document said.
The Commission declined to comment, while Google said its Android model supports competition.
“We look forward to showing the European Commission that we’ve designed the Android model in a way that’s good for both competition and consumers, and supports innovation across the region,” the company said in a statement.
The investigation into Android is one of three ongoing cases brought formally by the Commission against Google in a probe that began six years ago.
Last year the Commission brought formal antitrust charges claiming Google used its search dominance to unfairly shut out competition from rival shopping comparison services.
This year it followed with two other charges, one related to Android and another alleging Google restricted competition on its AdSense for Search advertising platform by signing exclusivity agreements with websites.
In a separate complaint the Commission said the shopping-comparison probe could also lead to a fine, according to Reuters.
Google’s response on the way
The Commission said in the document it would decide at a later stage how to allow Google to handle rival shopping-comparison services on its search engine, such as permitting it to charge a nominal amount for competitors to display their services prominently.
Google currently has until 13 October to issue its response to the online shopping complaint, 26 October for advertising and 31 October for Android.
Those deadlines have already been extended, however, and could be further pushed back, the Commission confirmed.
The Commission’s largest fine to date was the 1.1 billion (£950m) levied against Intel in 2009, but a fine against Google could range up to a maximum of $7.5bn.
If Google chooses to contest such a fine the case could go before the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in a process that could take several years.
US regulators cleared Google of anticompetitive search practices after an investigation in 2013 and president Barack Obama has accused the EU of using antitrust rules to protect European IT companies against overseas competition.
Are you a Google expert? Take our quiz!