Commentary

EU Goes After Google's Android Business

After a yearlong investigation, the European Commission is bringing charges against Google for its Android-related business practices.

“We found that Google pursues an overall strategy on mobile devices to protect and expand its dominant position in internet search,” Margrethe Vestager, the European Union competition commissioner, said in a statement.

“It does so by imposing unjustified restrictions and conditions on manufacturers of devices running its Android mobile operating system, as well as on mobile network operators,” Vestager claims.

Vestager is referring to the fact that Google contractually obligates hardware manufacturers to install its apps in bundles. If they want to pre-install Google Pay Store on their gadgets, they also have to pre-install its 10 other apps.

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Google was quick to defend such agreements, on Wednesday. “Our partner agreements are entirely voluntary -- anyone can use Android without Google,” Kent Walker, Google’s SVP and General Counsel, said in a statement.

To be clear, the European Commission has yet to officially indict Google, but a long legal battle is looking increasingly likely. The EU already has pending charges against Google for its comparative shopping service.

Yet, this latest attack is far more threatening because it involves the existence of Google’s various moneymaking services on mobile devices. 

That Apple loads its gadgets with apps could ultimately work in Google’s favor.

Less encouraging is the fact that Microsoft had to pay the EU about $1.5 billion in fines for bundling its Web browser.

It’s also worth noting that Android’s open-sourced operating system has significantly reduced the cost of owning increasingly powerful smartphones.

Of course, that’s exactly what Google’s lead lawyer just did. Thanks to Android, he writes, “Users enjoy extraordinary choices of apps and devices at ever-lower prices.”  

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