EU Antitrust Unit Finds Google Abused Power

     (CN) — The European Commission said Wednesday that its antitrust investigation into Google’s Android operating system shows an abuse of Google’s “dominant position by imposing restrictions on device manufacturers and mobile network operators.”
     The commission’s findings come in the form of a statement of objections sent to Google and its parent company Alphabet, a formal step in the regulatory body’s investigation process.
     After slapping Google with antitrust charges in April 2015 for skewing Internet search results in favor of its own ads, the commission launched a formal investigation into whether the tech giant blocked manufacturers from developing competing versions of its Android operating system — which is supposedly open-source — and stifled competition by bundling Google apps and programming on Android devices.
     In its statement of objections, the commission said it believes Google forces manufacturers that wish to preinstall Google’s app store Play on devices to also preinstall Google Search and to set the search engine as the default on the devices. Manufacturers must also install Google’s Chrome browser — meaning the company’s biggest apps are running on the majority of Android devices sold in Europe and manufacturers and consumers have no say in the matter, the commission said.
     The commission also took issue with a requirement that manufacturers wishing to preinstall Google’s proprietary apps must sign an “anti-fragmentation agreement” that bars them from selling any devices that run what’s called “Android forks” — developers’ modifications to the supposedly open-source Android operating system.
     And Google has also given “significant financial incentives” to the world’s largest smartphone and tablet manufacturers and mobile network operators when they agree to preinstall Google Search exclusively, the commission said.
     “A competitive mobile Internet sector is increasingly important for consumers and businesses in Europe. Based on our investigation thus far, we believe that Google’s behavior denies consumers a wider choice of mobile apps and services and stands in the way of innovation by other players, in breach of EU antitrust rules,” competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.
     The commission noted that Google’s market share in the EU’s mobile operating systems market exceeds 90 percent, as does the company’s share of general Internet searches. Its Play Store accounts for over 90 percent of apps downloaded to Android devices in Europe as well.
     Google and Alphabet can now view the commission’s investigation file and has 12 weeks to answer the claims made against them.
     If the commission makes a final antitrust finding against Google, the company could face a fine of up to 10 percent of its annual global sales — as of now, a possible $7 billion fine.

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