It comes as no surprise, but Google has finally been hit with a formal “Statement of Objections” (antitrust charges) by the European Commission in regards to the Android OS and related practices. The focus of the charges are the requirement that handset makers pre-install selected Google apps, like Chrome, in exchange for access to the Google Play app store.
The claims surrounding Android are mainly about Google mobile search and the degree to which Google’s actions are seeking to main a semblance of search dominance. This even parallels the Commission’s (shopping search case, which haven’t been resolved yet.
According to the Statement of Objections, phone makers are illegally constrained by Google’s contractual agreements. This serves to “strengthen Google’s dominant position in general internet search, and adversely affect competition in the market for mobile browsers.”
If you want to see a more concise statement of the EC’s claims, you should check out their press release. It says that Google broke European antitrust law by:
- requiring manufacturers to pre-install Google Search and Google’s Chrome browser and requiring them to set Google Search as default search service on their devices, as a condition to license certain Google proprietary apps;
- preventing manufacturers from selling smart mobile devices running on competing operating systems based on the Android open source code; and
- giving financial incentives to manufacturers and mobile network operators on condition that they exclusively pre-install Google Search on their devices.
It’s argued by the Commission that Google’s behavior “may lead to a further consolidation of the dominant position of Google Search,” which will limit the ability of other browsers to compete with Chrome. The Commission also feels that Google’s conduct “hinders the development of operating systems based on the Android open source code and the opportunities they would offer for the development of new apps and services.”
It’s under the Commission’s assumption that it’ll be the consumers who are ultimately harmed due to a lack of innovation and choice, and it’s all Google’s fault. But Google believes quite the opposite, as as consumers are benefited by the current arrangements. Google feels that if the market is fragmented, both developers and customers would be harmed. The funny thing about the Commission’s stance on the matter is that there is a severe lack of complaint from European customers that the current Android setup is harming them.
If the outcome of this situation finds an unfavorable verdict for Google, the company could face fines as high as $7 billion.