European Commission fines Google $5.04 billion for forcing its apps on Android manufacturers


The European Commission has fined Google €4.34 billion ($5.04 billion) for breaching EU antitrust rules. It claims that since 2011, Google has imposed illegal restrictions on Android device manufacturers and mobile networks to cement its dominant position in general internet search.

The commission says that Google needs to put an end to the conduct within the next 90 days or face penalty payments of up to 5% of the average daily worldwide turnover of Alphabet. It says that Google imposed conditions that manufacturers have to pre-install the Google Search app and browser app (Chrome) as a condition for licensing Google’s PlayStore. Google said to have made payments to certain manufacturers and mobile network operators on condition that they exclusively use the Google Search app on their devices.

Google said to have prevented manufacturers wishing to pre-install Google apps from selling smartphones other than Android. EU says that Google gets the vast majority of its revenues via its flagship product, the Google search engine. Anticipating the change from desktop PCs to mobile internet, Google developed a strategy to make sure that users would continue to use Google Search also on their mobile devices.

The Commission decision concerns three specific types of contractual restrictions that Google has imposed on device manufacturers and mobile network operators. Google said to have used Android as a medium to comment the dominance of its search engine. EU wants Google to stop and do not re-engage in any of these practices. The decision also requires Google to refrain from any measure that has the same or an equivalent object or effect as these practices.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said:

Today, mobile internet makes up more than half of global internet traffic. It has changed the lives of millions of Europeans. Our case is about three types of restrictions that Google has imposed on Android device manufacturers and network operators to ensure that traffic on Android devices goes to the Google search engine. In this way, Google has used Android as a vehicle to cement the dominance of its search engine. These practices have denied rivals the chance to innovate and compete on the merits. They have denied European consumers the benefits of effective competition in the important mobile sphere. This is illegal under EU antitrust rules.