22nd April 2016

EC targets Google´s Android in antitrust case

On 20 April, the European Commission´s antitrust department (DG Competition) sent the so-called Statement of Objections to Google and its parent, Alphabet. The Statement of Objections is the first formal step in an antitrust case and presents the EC´s view on antitrust rules violation by the given company. The company can respond to the allegations. The final verdict of the EC comes only afterwards. However, the Statement of Objection is a very strong indication of the future formal outcome.

In its statement, the EC states that in its view, Google is in breach of EU antitrust rules with its Android operating system practices. The case involves 3 threads, all of which have in common that they serve for strengthening of Google´s dominance in the general online search market. Firstly, Google requires smartphone manufacturers to pre-install Google Search and the Chrome browser and make them the default access to online searches, if the smartphone is to have access to Google´s services such as the Google Play app store. According to the EC, this restricts Google´s competitors in online searches and in web browsers, to the detriment of consumers. Secondly, Google requires manufacturers not to use other (non-Google) versions of Android if they want to license Google´s services on their devices. Thirdly, the EC alleges that Google paid large manufacturers to ensure exclusivity of its search engine on their devices.

This case adds to Google´s problems with EU antitrust authorities, as cases regarding favorable position of Google´s services in its search engine and regarding copyright are ongoing. Seen from the US, this further adds to the impression of anti-Americanism of the EU antitrust authorities. However, the cases are not closed and the final outcome cannot be prejudiced. If Alphabet is found guilty of abuse of dominant position, though, the penalty could reach 10% of its global turnover, i.e. some 7.4 billion US dollars.

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Members of the American Chamber of Commerce in the Czech Republic