EU antitrust chief puts Google’s Android under scrutiny

18 Apr 2016

The EU’s Competition Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, has issued a statement warning Google and its mobile platform, Android, that its deals with phone manufacturers are now under scrutiny.

Traditionally, the EU hasn’t taken too kindly to large multinational corporations holding considerable power over the most common access points to technology, such as when Microsoft was ordered to pay close to €500m for including Windows Media Player as the default media player on its products.

Now, the EU and Vestager have Google in their sights over its decision to include its range of Google apps on Android by default, an act that could be considered in the same bracket as Microsoft’s ruling back in 2004.

According to Vetager’s statement, which she delivered to mark European Competition and Consumer Day, the EU is specifically “looking closely” at Google’s contracts with both mobile operators and the manufacturers of the devices about the apps that can’t be taken off the Android operating system.

Could face fine of up to $7.4bn

“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,” Vestager said.

These discussions come following a year in which the Alphabet subsidiary has been investigated for stifling innovation with other potential app developers being shoved aside thanks to the decision to have default apps on the operating system.

If Google is eventually deemed as having broken antitrust laws within the EU, the company could be faced with fines worth 10pc of its 2015 revenues, or up to $7.4bn.

Google apps on Android image via Twinsterphoto/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic