Google's Judgement Day Looms In EU Android Antitrust Case
Google's decision to force mobile device makers to install its own collection of apps on Android phones in order to have access to the popular Google Play Store is going to cost the company a hefty fine in Europe. Just how hefty is not yet known, though the European Union is likely to dole out a record penalty of several billion dollars.
The way things stand right now, if a company like Samsung or HTC wants to plop the Google Play Store on a device so that customers have easy access to more Android apps, they are required to also install Google Search and make it the default, and also install several other Google apps, like the Chrome browser. This gives Google a huge advantage in generating search income.
Google also incentivizes its hardware partners to install Google Search on their handsets, which the European Commission is not opposed to, in and of itself. However, the Commission does have an issue with Google requiring that no other search engine be pre-installed.
The company's policies have drawn the ire of the Commission multiple times in the past. Around this time last year, the Commission hit Google with a then record-breaking fine of €2.42 billion (around $2.7 billion in US currency at the time) for running afoul of antitrust law. The fine, which was double the previous largest penalty for an antitrust violation, came after a seven-year investigation that concluded Google had abused its dominant market position to promote its own comparison shopping results while actively suppressing the competition.
Now Google faces what is very likely to be an even bigger fine over its Android policies. According to Bloomberg, Google has known about the EU investigation into Android since 2015, but has not made any significant changes. Apparently Google feels that the money it generates from its Android requirements more than offset any fines the EU might dole out.
How far Google is willing to go is something that will be interesting to watch. The EU has three cases against Google at the moment. Google's parent company Alphabet has plenty of cash in reserves—over $100 billion—but these fines could add up to a significant chunk. Furthermore, Google risks other territories following suit with investigations and fines of their own.