The European Union has hit Google with a $5 billion fine (€4.3 billion Euro) for forcing manufacturers to pre-install Google Search and other apps on Android devices, a move regulators say juices its leading search engine position and hurts competition.
The European Commission, the regulatory arm of the EU, found that dating back to 2011 Google forced device manufacturers to pre-install Google Search and Chrome as the default browser as a condition of getting the Google Play app store. The tech giant has also, the European Commission alleges, paid manufacturers and network operators to pre-install Google Search and barred manufacturers from selling devices running “alternative versions of Android that were not approved by Google” aka Android Forks.
The Commission explained that pre-installed apps have a tremendous advantage among users. Google’s Android operating system is on approximately 80 percent of devices in Europe, according to the Commission, and regulators are especially sensitive to market leaders potentially taking advantage of their position to hurt competition.
“Market dominance is, as such, not illegal under EU antitrust rules,” according to the European Commission’s press release. “However, dominant companies have a special responsibility not to abuse their powerful market position by restricting competition, either in the market where they are dominant or in separate markets.”
Google CEO Sundar Pichai fired back at the Commission’s decision in a blog post, saying the company plans to appeal. Pichai argues that Android’s competition with iOS and status as an open-source operating system has created choice for app developers and device manufacturers.
The EU and Google have butted heads before. The Commission fined the tech giant $2.7 billion last year for using its dominance in the search engine market to favor its comparison shopping service over competitors like Amazon or eBay.