Google might be on the hook to pay a record-breaking fine after the European Union discovered antitrust violations involving its mobile operating system.
The $5 billion fine, which could increase if Google doesn’t comply within three months, comes as the EU’s executive branch decided that Android disregards fair competition. Alphabet, the parent company, would see 5% of its average daily revenue tacked onto the total amount.
Based on the ruling, the EU believes pre-installed Google apps like Chrome and Search are hurting others in the mobile industry. The only way to gain access to additional apps is through the Google Play, but partners need to carry Google Mobile Services out of the box for the digital store to be available.
Another area of concern is how Google treats modified versions of Android. The EU doesn’t think it’s appropriate that products with tweaked versions, like Amazon’s Fire tablets, can’t access the Play Store despite having the same software at the core.
There does appear to be an immediate fix, but it’s not one Google would like to make. The EU is urging the company to stop forcing partners and users to take advantage of its apps and services. If that happens (and probably won’t), Google would lose its grip on the industry in a vital region.
Rapid innovation, wide choice, and falling prices are classic hallmarks of robust competition. Android has enabled this and created more choice for everyone, not less. This is why we intend to appeal today's Android decision https://t.co/TnpMZlDV8j
— Sundar Pichai (@sundarpichai) July 18, 2018
In a statement, Google confirmed it disagrees with the ruling and is already in the process of filing an appeal. The argument is that, aside from allowing its partners to run free, Google is competing directly against Apple. iOS devices, too, ship with various pre-installed apps but the EU doesn’t feel Apple has limit anyone.
Sundar Pichai, who’s been at the helm of the Mountain View-based company for several years, wrote a lengthy blog post discussing how Android has created more choice. He mentions there are “more than 24,000 devices, at every price point, from more than 1,300 different brands” around the world.
The blog post goes on to say that partners aren’t obligated to use Google Mobile Services and consumers can easily remove pre-installed apps and replace them with alternatives. Pichai revealed that the typical Android phone user installs around 50 apps on their own.
Google also emphasized the importance of “free distribution” in the ecosystem. To use Android and Google Mobile Services, hardware manufacturers and carriers aren’t charged anything. It’s merely a benefit for all because of how strong these things are together.
With the ruling due to face a lengthy appeal process, there’s nothing for end-users to fear. Android will continue working the same, but there could be changes in the future if the EU holds its stance.