Europe’s competition watchdog sent a message to Google in the form of a record $US5 billion antitrust fine for abusing its power in one market to strengthen its role in a few others.
As this chart from Statista shows, Google clearly dominates a few European and UK consumer markets. Even in areas where Android smartphone ownership dips, Google’s search engine is used by at least 9 out of every 10 consumers, and its browser is used by four times as many users worldwide as the next leading browser, according to StatCounter data. But in a 2016 investigation, the European Commission concluded that the way it went about that was illegal.
Unlike Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android platform is utilised by multiple smartphone manufacturers – one of the traits that’s helped it become the global leader in mobile software by a long shot. The commission accused Google of using this to its advantage by requiring any manufacturer wanting to licence the Google Play Store (the app store for Android smartphones) to pre-install Google Search and the Google Chrome browser. It also accused Google of paying device manufacturers to pre-install Google Search.
Competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said this showed how “Google used Android as a vehicle to cement the dominance of its search engine.” But Google calls it “a vibrant ecosystem” that creates more choices rather than fewer, and announced plans to appeal against the ruling.
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