Android antitrust remedy comes at a cost for rival search providers, which will have to take part in an auction to appear on list of alternate providers
Google is to give Android users in Europe a choice of search providers when they set up a new device – but rivals will have to pay Google for the privilege of being listed on Android’s new “choice screen”.
Currently, Google is set as Android’s default search provider. Users have always been able to change this, but few are believed to do so.
The new system is to give users a choice from the beginning, giving them a randomly ordered list of Google and three competitors to choose from.
The feature, announced in a blog post on Friday, is to be introduced in 2020 for users in the European Economic Area (EEA), a broader market than the EU.
The three competitors listed on the choice screen are to be chosen from the highest bidders following an auction, with a separate bidding process to be held for each country, Google said.
Google said it would list three alternative providers even if there aren’t enough candidates to meet the minimum bid. The company didn’t disclose what the minimum bid would be.
“The auction winners, and Google, will be ordered randomly in the choice screen,” Google said in the blog post.
Candidate search engines have just a month and a half to submit bids.
The feature comes in response to a massive antitrust penalty levied by the EU in July 2018.
The bloc fined Google 4.3 billion euros (£3.86bn) after finding that “illegal restrictions” Google had placed on Android allowed it to “cement its dominant position in general internet search”.
But competitors were quick to criticise Google’s plans, with one arguing Google stands to profit handsomely from a system that is supposed to mitigate its market power.
“Google will profit at the expense of the competition,” Gabriel Weinberg, chief executive of search engine DuckDuckGo, told the Financial Times.
Marc Al-Hames, chief executive of German browsing and search provider Cliqz, said Google could easily make more in profits from the search engine auctions than it paid for the antitrust penalty.
Google said its profits would be reinvested into Android.
Google’s plan recalls Microsoft’s “browser ballot” remedy following a European antitrust ruling in 2009, in which users were given a choice of browsers.
Microsoft did not charge browser makers to participate in the ballot.
Google has also begun allowing rival price comparison sites to bid for space at the top of its search results, following an EU antitrust case over Google Shopping.