Google has been in hot water with the European Union before, but things are about to get a little warmer. The EU has formally filed antitrust charges against Google’s Android, claiming it’s abusing its dominant position in the market to avoid having to compete with other search engines and services.
The claim states that some of Google’s current practices are anti-competitive, including forcing Google Search to be the default, exclusive search engine on Android devices. These practices essentially shut off the market to any other search engines.
I’m sure many of us know that it’s very possible to change your default search engine and web browser in Android, but that’s not the heart of the issue here. The problem is that if a manufacturer wants to ship an Android device they’re going to need some kind of an app store. If they want to actually survive in Android’s incredibly lethal market, they need Google Play. If they want Google Play, they have to play by Google’s rules and ship their device with other apps and services that Google dictates, including things like Chrome, Google Drive, and Google Search. They’re not allowed to ship the device with other versions of something like Google Search (although some apps can have duplicates, like web browsers) and they can’t sell a different version of the device without Google Play services, which wouldn’t sell anyway because no one wants an Android phone without the Play Store. Go ask Amazon.
What tends to happen with many users is that they’re only going to use whatever app is pre-installed that the phone defaults to. If it automatically launches web links with Chrome, that’s probably what they’re going to use. If searches default to Google, you’re probably not seeing many people load up a separate Bing app to get different results. That makes is nearly impossible for competitors to get a foothold into the market because they can’t secure a place on a user’s default home screen.
In Google’s defense, there are many of us that want Google services as the default. Google Search and Chrome and Play Music and Gmail are all perfect for me, and if I can avoid having an extra useless app preloaded, I’m on board with that. But the EU doesn’t think it’s healthy for a competitive market, so Google is going to have to come up with a better counter-argument to get out of this one.
And if they don’t, the EU can issue a fine for up to 10% of its annual revenue for mobile search, which is going to hurt like you wouldn’t believe. Get to work, Alphabet lawyers.
source: European Commission