Android antitrust: EU regulators assemble expert panel, as they consider another huge fine

Last week, Google was slapped with a record €2.42 billion ($2.7 billion) fine by the European Commission, after it found that the company had "breached EU antitrust rules" with its shopping search business, and "abused its market dominance as a search engine". The announcement concluded a seven-year investigation by the EC, but Google said it disagreed with the ruling and is considering an appeal.

But Google remains under two further antitrust investigations by the EC, one of which focuses on its Android operating system. In 2016, the Commission formally accused Google of having "abused its dominant position" with Android; a final determination in that case is still pending.

According to Reuters, the EC is now forming a panel of experts to get a 'second opinion' on its case against Android. The company is said to be calling the peer review panel - also referred to as a 'devil's advocate' group - to examine the case and its findings, and ensure that they stand up to scrutiny.

European Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said last year that Google had "pursued an overall strategy on its devices to protect and expand its dominant position in mobile and internet search". The EC said that Google had breached European Union antitrust rules by:

  • requiring manufacturers to pre-install Google Search and Google's Chrome browser and requiring them to set Google Search as default search service on their devices, as a condition to license certain Google proprietary apps;
  • preventing manufacturers from selling smart mobile devices running on competing operating systems based on the Android open source code;
  • giving financial incentives to manufacturers and mobile network operators on condition that they exclusively pre-install Google Search on their devices.

If its case against Google on the Android front is judged to be sufficiently robust, the Commission is likely to push ahead with delivering its final ruling. That could potentially result in another massive fine for Alphabet.

Meanwhile, Google is also being investigated by the EC for alleged anti-competitive behavior in Europe's online advertising market, after claims that it prohibited AdSense for Search users from accepting rival search ads.

Source: Reuters

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