Following a long battle with the European Commission, Google has been fined an incredible €4.34bn over it’s activities with Android and Google Search.

The European Commission has ruled that Google has used the Android Operating System to artificially cement itself into a dominant position over competing search engine providers.

Google have been under fine from the EC because of three main issues, revolving around the Android operating system that Google created;

  • Google forced all Android handset and tablet manufacturers to have the Google Search app and Chrome web browser pre-installed on all devices, otherwise the manufacturers wouldn’t be able to access the Play App Store, the conventional way of installing Apps onto Android Based phones.
  • It also then prevented any manufacturers from using “forked” versions of Android (Android being Open-Source can be edited and adapted, such as the FireOS utilised by Amazon for their devices), they did this by threatening to prevent them from pre-installing any Google Apps on “forked” versions.
  • They also made payments to the large manufacturers and mobile network operators in order for them to exclusively pre-install the Google Search app on any devices that they supply.

Google has argued that the Android operating system doesn’t prevent users from installing alternative versions of Search and Browser apps, however the facts show that only 1% of users downloaded a competing search app and only 10% an alternative browser, primarily as most users are unlikely to change from the default, as it will work fine.

What has Google been told to do?

The competition commission has outlined to Google that they need to change their practices, and to also not attempt to circumvent them through other methods. An example of how this can be achieved is present in Russia, where the country’s regulator followed up similar complaints in 2017, and Android users are now prompted with a choice between which search engine they wish to use out of Google, Mail.ru and Yandex on the first use of the Chrome Web Browser. This alteration has seen a change in the use of alternative search engines as a result, with Yandex experiencing a mobile search share rise from about 34% of the market to 46% according to Global Stats website Statcounter.

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has now got 90 days to change it’s practices, or it could face additional penalties of up to 5% of its average daily turnover (globally), however Alphabet have plans to appeal, along with fighting an additional appeal against a €2.8bn fine over it’s comparative shopping service and preparing to defend against a third investigation based around Google’s AdSense advertising service.

Whether there will be a lasting impact on Google remains to be seen, they currently have a 90.31% share of Search Engine market share across all devices, which raises to an impressive 93.39% for Mobiles and 89.19% on tablets. The biggest impact may be the option for “forked” versions of Android for other manufacturers, while most manufacturers such as Samsung, Huawei or HTC have their own skin or UI that they overlay Android with, they all run with the stock Android underneath it all, however this change of policy may see the big manufacturers consider an entire “forked”  version of Android for future handsets, which may lead to a more split-up ecosystem than we currently have today…watch this space.