Google Risks New Antitrust Fines in the EU. The U.S. Lags Behind Again
Yet again, European regulators are coming after U.S.-based tech companies that operate in the EU. This time the culprit is none other than Google and the misdeed is the company’s policy of forcing its software into Android-based devices by default.
The penalty for the alleged violation of the EU’s antitrust laws is expected to include billions of dollars in fines and some new obligations regarding the tech giant’s approach to healthy competition. Moreover, this move may bring back the political pressure on U.S. antitrust watchdogs, such as the Federal Trade Commission, to pay more attention to Google’s and other big players’ operations.
Google Forces Android Device Makers to Pre-Install Its Own Apps
Evidently, device manufacturers that equip their products with Google’s Android OS are required to pre-install Google Chrome browser and make Google Search the default search engine if they want to provide their customers with access to Google Play store. Without such a “compromise” end users would’ve been cut off the largest and the most popular source of games and apps, having to struggle seeking the desired software elsewhere. Yet, said “compromise” allegedly violates the EU’s antitrust rules by giving the search giant’s software an unfair edge over its competitors.
The EU’s competition chief Margrethe Vestager pointed out that such a requirement for hardware manufacturers contributes to Google’s internet dominance and bars other search engines and software products from getting their share of the market. According to the Washington Post’s sources, Vestager is going to punish Google with billions of dollars in fines, prohibit them from concluding pre-install agreements with Android-powered smartphone and other mobile hardware manufacturers, and possibly oblige the company to offer some some easy and convenient ways for end users to migrate to other services. The final judgement is expected to be released next week.
This is at least the second case when European regulators have accused Google of having anti-competitive policies. Last year the company faced a $2.7 billion fine for promoting its proprietary shopping comparison services and demoting competing products in search engine results.
The U.S. Regulators Are Urged to Follow Suit
Notably, unlike the relatively active European enforcers, their colleagues over the Atlantic appeared to have somewhat laid back approach to teaching the U.S.- based corporations some manners. In 2013, U.S. regulators were investigating Google’s operations, but haven’t forced the company to change anything worth noting.
Meanwhile, the general public, tech entrepreneurs, and even Congress representatives call the U.S. government to follow the EU’s example.
“We’re now encountering a situation where European consumers are poised to enjoy better protections than U.S. consumers,” remarked Yelp’s senior VP for public policy Luther Lowe.
Earlier, on May 31st, Democratic National Committee’s Keith Ellison wrote a letter to the U.S. government urging them “to take a second look” Google practices condemned by the EU.
“As you know, in June of 2017, the European Union fined Alphabet $2.7 billion for unfairly highlighting its own services over that of its competitors. The FTC should determine whether Alphabet has engaged in similar conduct in the United States and whether such conduct violates the FTC Act,” the letter reads, “This alone is a compelling reason for the FTC to open a new investigation into whether Google was engaging in anti-competitive behavior.”
At the moment, both Google and the European Commission haven’t commented on the matter.
The EU keeps its role of the leading leading antitrust and consumer protection regulator, once again taking significant action against the U.S. tech conglomerate while the U.S. government apparently lags behind. However, such an example may eventually prompt the U.S. government to tighten its respective policies and question its own approach to regulation.
Considering the previous antitrust case, Google will most likely try to appeal without changing anything in its practices, just like they did back then. However, if the appeal gets rejected, the company may face additional fines for each day of continuous non-compliance.
Nevertheless, it is clear that there will be more efforts to restrict the deep-seated corporate reign not only over the market, but over people’s personal data and privacy. Well, at least in the EU.
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