Europe ‘Readies’ Formal Android Antitrust Charges

Google could be facing European antitrust charges over its Android mobile operating system very soon, following a report in the Financial Times, which claims formal proceedings could be filed as soon as next Wednesday.

The search giant is already locked in an antitrust battle with the European Union over its comparison shopping service, after the European Commission launched an investigation back in November 2010.

But then matters escalated this time last year, when the EU laid the ground for formal antitrust charges against Google, after it opened a separate investigation into the domination of Android in the smartphone arena, after complaints from two firms, thought to be Nokia and Microsoft.

The FT, quoting four lawyers involved in the case, said that the EC had sent out requests for information from complainants with 24-hour deadlines. This tight deadline strongly suggests the regulators are close to finalising charges against Google.

Antitrust Probe

The EC is reportedly investigating whether Google hinders the development of alternatives to its own smartphone mapping, search and app store services by requiring handset makers to exclusively pre-install its own apps and services.

The FT said that one person close to the commission said it was likely that Margrethe Vestager, EU competition commissioner, could publicly deliver a statement of objections – or formal charge sheet – as early as Wednesday next week, although the process could still take slightly longer.

The EC and Google both reportedly declined to comment on the matter.

If the EC does find any wrongdoing against Google, it has the power to impose a financial penalty of up to 10 percent of the previous financial year’s revenue. To give an idea of how expensive this could be, Google’s revenue from its core businesses rose 13.5 percent to $74.5bn (£52.5bn) in 2015.

Android Domination

Google of course is now a division of its parent firm, Alphabet. It has strongly denied any wrongdoing in either the Android or shopping cases. The EU isn’t the only place where Google’s smartphone OS market dominance has been under scrutiny. Android is facing similar investigations in Russia as well as the United States.

Android is the dominant mobile operating system around the world, by some margin. Analyst house IDC recently predicted that Android shipments will grow from 1.17 billion in 2015 to 1.62 billion in 2020, pushing the company’s share of the smartphone industry from 81 percent to 85 percent.

In comparison, Apple iPhone shipments is expected to be flat this year after a record of 231.5 million in 2015. Windows Phone shipments meanwhile have fallen 18 percent over the course of 2015 at 11.1 million units.

Do you know all about the Android platform? Take our quiz!

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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