In 2015 Google changed its corporate motto from “Don’t be evil” to “Do the right thing”. Can it be said to be living up to its latest motto when only a year after being fined €2.4bn for manipulating the results of its Google Shopping service, it has now been fined a staggering €4.3bn for restrictions on its use of Android?
The Evening Standard explains the decision in its article here, in which I comment.
The Android OS accounts for a huge proportion of the market – More than 80% of the world’s smartphones now operate the Android OS. The head of the EU’s antitrust division stated “Google has used Android as a vehicle to cement the dominance of its search engine.”
The Commission found that Google was restricting competition in three ways:
- Google obliges Android smartphone manufacturers to pre-install the Google Search app and Chrome as a condition for licensing Google’s app store (Google Play);
- Google prevents mobile device manufacturers that pre-install Google apps from selling products running on alternative versions of Android that have not been approved by Google; and
- Google uses financial incentives to ensure its search engine is exclusively pre-installed on mobile devices.
Google now has 90 days to halt the anti-competitive practices, or face additional penalties of up to 5 per cent of average daily revenues.
Those whose businesses have been harmed by the anti-competitive restrictions outlined above can be expected to seek damages from Google in private damages actions in national courts. Some may seek to do so with the backing of litigation funders – when regulatory decisions form the basis for a claim this is often attractive to funders as it provides a solid foundation for the claim. And Google would certainly be a defendant with deep pockets.