Google fined €102m in Italy for shutting out auto app

13 May 2021

Image: © nmann77/Stock.adobe.com

Italy’s antitrust authority said Google abused its dominant market position by not allowing the JuicePass app to operate on Android Auto.

Google has been hit with a fine of more than €100m by Italy’s antitrust authority.

The competition regulator said that the tech giant abused its dominant market position by not allowing an app from Enel X onto its Android Auto platform.

Android Auto is a system developed by Google that mirrors the features of an Android device on a car’s dashboard display. It allows certain apps to be used while a person is driving, in compliance with safety requirements.

For more than two years, Enel X’s JuicePass app has not been allowed on Android Auto. The app from the Italian company – which is a subsidiary of energy provider Enel – offers services related to recharging electric vehicles, such as finding the nearest charging station and reserving a space there.

Italy’s antitrust authority said that by refusing to make JuicePass available on Android Auto, Google had “limited the possibilities” for users to use the Enel X app when they are driving an electric vehicle and need to recharge.

In this way, the regulator said that the company had “favoured its own Google Maps app”, which can be used on Android Auto. Google Maps is currently limited to navigation and allowing users to search for charging stations, but it could include more features in competition with apps such as JuicePass in future.

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The antitrust body claimed that if JuicePass remains excluded from Android Auto, it could “definitively compromise” the possibility for Enel X to build a solid user base, at a time when there is a growth in sales of electric vehicles, and have a negative impact on consumer choice.

The Italian antitrust authority has now fined Google €102m for violating EU regulations, and said the company will have to provide tools for interoperability with Android Auto to Enel X and other app developers.

In response, Google said it disagrees with the authority’s decision and will review its options.

“The number one priority for Android Auto is to ensure apps can be used safely while driving. That’s why we have strict guidelines on the types of apps which are currently supported and these are based on driver-distraction tests and regulatory and industry standards,” the company said in a statement.

“Thousands of applications are already compatible with Android Auto, and our goal is to allow even more developers to make their apps available over time.”

Google has already been hit with antitrust fines in Europe related to its ad practices and Android restrictions.

It could also face tighter controls in future under the EU’s proposed Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act, which aim to curb the monopoly large multinationals hold in the digital space.

Sarah Harford is sub-editor of Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com