EU hits Google with second antitrust charge – Reuters

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The European Union charged Google on
Wednesday with using its dominant Android mobile operating
system to squeeze out rivals, opening a second front against the
U.S. technology giant that could result in large fines.

EU antitrust regulators said that by requiring mobile phone
manufacturers to pre-install Google Search and the Google Chrome
browser to get access to other Google apps, the U.S. company was
harming consumers by stifling competition.

The European Commission said such practices, which started
in 2011 when the company became dominant in mobile operating
systems and app stores, showed Google was seeking to shield its
search engine, the world’s most popular, from competition.

Google is already facing EU charges over the promotion of
its shopping service in Internet searches at the expense of
rival services in a case that has dragged on since late 2010
despite three attempts to resolve the issues.

The stakes are higher for Google in the Android case as it
made about $11 billion last year from advertising sales on
Android phones through its apps such as Maps, Search and Gmail,
according to estimates by financial analyst Richard Windsor.

“A competitive mobile Internet sector is increasingly
important for consumers and businesses in Europe,” European
Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

“We believe that Google’s behaviour denies consumers a wider
choice of mobile apps and services and stands in the way of
innovation by other players,” she said.

The European Commission said about 80 percent of smart
mobile devices in Europe and the world run on Android and that
Google holds more than 90 percent of the market for general
Internet searches on Android in the European Economic Area.


Google, which has 12 weeks to respond to the charges, said
Android was a remarkable system based on open-source software
and open innovation.

“We look forward to working with the European Commission to
demonstrate that Android is good for competition and good for
consumers,” Google’s general counsel Kent Walker said in a blog.

He said any phone maker could load Google apps and rival
products and that users had freedom of choice as well.

Complainant FairSearch said Google was hindering the
development of versions that might lead to new operating systems
able to compete with Android, despite launching it as an open
source project.

The Commission said while Android was an open source system
that could be used to develop new mobile operating systems –
known as Android forks – Google required phone manufacturers to
sign an agreement not to sell devices running on such forks if
they wanted to pre-install Google apps.

The EU also charged Google with giving “significant
financial incentives” to some of the world’s largest smartphone
makers to pre-install Google Search exclusively on devices.

Internet Explorer-browser maker Microsoft Corp
declined to comment. Firefox owner Mozilla, Apple which
has the Safari browser, and Norway’s Opera Software
were not immediately available to comment.

Vodafone, BT Group’s EE, Orange,
Deutsche Telekom, KPN, Samsung Electronics
and LG Electronics were not immediately
available to comment. Huawei declined to comment.

(Additional reporting by Eric Auchard and Harro ten Wolde in
Frankfurt, Se Young Lee in Seoul)

EU hits Google with second antitrust charge – Reuters