The EC has accused Google of violating antitrust laws and forcing phone makers to favour their own services. The decision by Europe’s regulator to step up a five-year investigation led to EU competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, unveiling a separate probe into its Android operating system.
Google have strongly denied any wrongdoing and have termed the proceedings as ‘disappointing news’. In a memo to employees, the firm stated: ‘Competition online is thriving – despite what many of the complaints in this case allege.’ They stressed that carriers, handset makers and consumers can decide how to use Android, with rival applications easily available to download on Android handsets.
Bundling its services with the open-source Android platform has allowed Google to take pole position in online mobile services such as maps and search, with over 1bn handsets shipped last year, according to IDC. However rivals complain that Google have been handed an unfair advantage for services that generate ad revenues, such as YouTube, and that search results in areas such as travel, shopping and maps favour Google results, rather than links to online services run by rivals. Other companies have complained of being forced to give Google services prominent position on their devices in order to gain access to the latest Android operating system.
The EC have taken previous antitrust violations seriously, with Microsoft fined $2.2bn (£1.5bn) over a decade in the 2000s and Intel fined €1.1bn (£789m) in 2009 for abusing dominance in the computer chip market. Google have two years to respond to the charges put to them and while no fines have been announced, it is likely that the proceedings will have a significant impact on Google’s business practises.