The European Commission’s 39-month long investigation into Google’s Android operating system ends with a record-breaking antitrust fine of 4.34 billion euros imposed on Google.
The US tech giant was fined for imposing illegal restrictions on Android device manufacturers and mobile network operators, in order to cement its already super dominant position in general internet search services.
The European Commission established that Google is in breach of EU antitrust rules on three counts:
- Tying the Google search and browser apps: by requiring manufacturers to pre-install the Google Search app and browser app – Chrome, as a condition for licensing Google’s app store – the Play Store;
- Payments for an exclusive pre-installation of Google Search: by making payments to manufacturers and mobile network operators on the condition that they exclusively pre-install the Google Search app on their devices; and,
- Obstruction of the development and distribution of competing Android operating systems: by preventing manufacturers intending to pre-install Google apps from selling smart mobile devices running on alternative versions of Android that had not been approved by Google – the so-called “Android forks“.
This fine is far higher than any other handed down by US, Chinese or other antitrust authorities. Google has around three months to end its illegal conduct, otherwise its parent company Alphabet could be hit with additional fines for each day it fails to comply. Google may also face a number of civil actions for damages that can be brought before the civil courts by anyone affected by its anti-competitive behaviour.
Google will challenge the Commission’s ruling before EU courts. However, an appeal does not postpone the obligation to comply with the decision, unless the court halts the Commission’s decision based on an interim measure.
This decision is only one part of an eight-year battle between Brussels and the tech giant. In 2017, Google was fined EUR 2.4 billion for using its dominant search engine to skew the market in favour of its internet shopping service and the Commission continues its investigations of advertising service in the AdSense case.