Following a 39-month investigation, the European Commission has finally announced its decision in the Android case, imposing a fine of €4.34 billion and requiring that Google bring an end to its infringing behaviour within 90 days or face penalty fines of up to 5% of the average daily worldwide turnover of their parent company, Alphabet.
Tim Cowen, partner at Preiskel & Co and specialist competition lawyer said “The Commission’s decision shows that Google has been breaking the law for many years. How Google remedies the position is not specified. The record fine is a mark of the scale of the infringement. The law requires that Google put forward a remedy- the industry will now wait with baited breath to see what that remedy will be.”
The Commission’s investigation and decision focused on three issues.
- First, Google required pre-installation of the Google Search and Browser (Chrome) as a condition for licencing the Google app store (Play Store), which is an important marketplace for apps.
- Second, Google paid manufacturers to ensure that only the Google Search app was installed on devices.
- Third, Google obstructed the development of competing operating systems which could have provided a platform allowing for rival search engines to develop their offerings. Google prevented manufacturers wishing to pre-install Google apps from selling even a single smart mobile device running on alternative versions of Android that were not approved by Google (so-called “Android forks”)
The Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, stated that, through such conduct, Google had “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.”
The Commission found Google to be dominant in three markets:
- the market for general internet search services (as was concluded in the Google Shopping Decision);
- the market for licensable smart mobile operating systems; and
- the market for app stores for the Android mobile operating system.
Google has announced it will appeal against the Decision.
Read the Commission’s press release here.
For further information please contact Tim Cowen.