EU draws up formal charges against Google and Android

20 Apr 2016

It’s now official: the EU has sent Google a list of formal antitrust charges related to its inclusion of its own apps on the Android operating system, giving the company 12 weeks to respond.

The commission that exists within the EU to deter major corporations from exploiting dominance over a particular market has long been critical of Google’s actions when it comes to its Android operating system.

In this particular grievance, just recently aired by Commissioner Margarethe Vestager, it was claimed that Google’s decision to arrange deals with mobile operators and manufacturers to include apps like Gmail, YouTube and Photos undermines the ability of smaller developers to get their apps noticed on the Google Play Store.

During a recent statement, which has begun the formal charges laid against Google, Vestager said: “Our concern is that, by requiring phone makers and operators to pre-load a set of Google apps, rather than letting them decide for themselves which apps to load, Google might have cut off one of the main ways that new apps can reach customers.”

Proceedings against Google had opened in April of last year, but it is now universally agreed among the Commission that it is not competitive for Google to be dominant in the markets for general internet search services, licensable smart mobile operating systems and app stores for Android.

“In the Commission’s preliminary view, this conduct ultimately harms consumers because they are not given as wide a choice as possible and because it stifles innovation,” the EU’s statement reads.

Google issues initial statement

In many cases, the EU statement argues, Google has made it financially lucrative for mobile manufacturers and mobile networks to allow Google’s apps to be installed by default on Android phones, rather than any potential competitor.

With Google being given 12 weeks in which to formally respond to these allegations, Google’s senior vice-president and general counsel, Kent Walker, has stated: “Android has helped foster a remarkable and, importantly, sustainable ecosystem, based on open-source software and open innovation. We look forward to working with the European Commission.”

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic Ocean, the US Supreme Court has ruled in favour of Google regarding claims from authors and publishers that its Google Books digital scanning of books was infringing copyright on a mass scale.

The battle has been raging for over 11 years, but in the court’s explanation, the justices agreed with Google that this was not the case, thereby saving Google having to pay potentially billions of dollars in copyright infringement damages.

Android phone on table image via OlegDoroshin/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic