Google Accused of Unfair Competition

John Lister's picture

European officials have formally accused Google of breaching competition rules in the way it handles the Android system. They say the company unfairly used the system to push its search services.

The claims come from the European Commission, the equivalent of the executive branch of the European Union. It oversees some elements of competition law that apply across 28 countries.

The Commission has issued a Statement of Objections, which is formal notification that it is investigating alleged breaches. Google now has 12 weeks to respond to the claims. If found guilty it could face financial penalties that may be particularly heavy for Google as the maximum amount is a proportion of the company's turnover.

Allegations Are Three-Fold

The statement details three main allegations surrounding the Android operating system, a system Google developed but makes available to device manufacturers without charge. The first is that Google told manufacturers they would only be allowed to preinstall certain Google-owned apps such as YouTube if they agreed to also install the Google Search app and the Chrome Browser, and to make Google the default search tool on the phone.

The second allegation is that Google banned manufacturers from selling phones and tablets which used a modified version of the Android code, which is supposedly open source.

Finally, officials say Google offered financial incentives to manufacturers who agreed to not only install Google Search but to install no rival search-related apps.

Microsoft Previously Hit By Euro-Probe

The claims are somewhat reminiscent of similar charges laid against Microsoft over its installation of Internet Explorer as the default browser on Windows PCs. That led to a fine worth the equivalent of US $794 million.

In both cases, the cases were brought under a principle of European competition laws that block "the abuse of a dominant position which may affect trade and prevent or restrict competition." The European Commission says Android is used on around 80 percent of smartphones and tablets and that "Google's behavior denies consumers a wider choice of mobile apps and services and stands in the way of innovation by other players." (Source:

Google says it will respond to the claims and "demonstrate that Android is good for competition and good for consumers." (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Is Google acting unfairly? Should companies have free reign to decide how manufacturers can use their software, particularly when giving it away free of charge? Does Google's market share mean it should be prevented from imposing conditions that would be acceptable from a smaller company?

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Dennis Faas's picture

The charges sound almost word-for-word the same as they were when the European Commission went after Microsoft - and we all know how that ended. I'm interested to learn how Google will make distinctions between the two cases, so that they won't incur massive fines.

ronbh's picture

I think the European Union is very heavy handed in the way that they go after successful companies

That being said I just made the switch from a BlackBerry Torch to a Priv which is android.

I hate the fact that you need to have a google account to use a lot of the features. As well for one of the gestures you annot remove the Google now shortcut.

I wondered why blackberry would have that and now it seams that google ties the hands of the phone companies limiting the amount of customization that they can do.

I personally am sick and tired of the amount of data that google Microsoft and about every other company that has a web site is gathering. So in this case I hate to say I am going to side with the European's

S.Rost_4855's picture

Without going into the mechanics of it all, Android is giving it away with an OS, Web Browser and Search Engine so the consumer has something right out of the box to work with. Bingo! This should be adequate enough.
IF the consumer is free to download any other Web browser (On my BlackBerry Q10, I have the BlackBerry browser that is adequate for my needs), then go for it. If the consumer wants another browser and finds one that will operate on Android, THEN let the consumer make the choice at the App Store. Bingo! All Done.
IF the consumer needs or wants a different search engine, then find one and if compatible with Android whatever; knock themselves out. Bingo!
This akin to the Windows (7) OS, the only one I am familiar with, adding Internet Explorer in the software. It works, good or not is not an issue, it is there so the end user has something to start off with. Bingo!
It is akin to Windows (7) OS having Bing in the software as a search engine, the end user has something right out of the box to work with. Bingo!
The question should be, "Does the consumer have options at the Android App Store for other options?" If yes, then no nation has the right to complain. If there are no options, making Google Android a monopolistic OS, then level a complaint. Bingo! Done,

shawn.patrick.roberts_4098's picture

Well said.

Technically, my s6 came with an app called 'email' and it's like Thunderbird for android. I don't have to use the Gmail app. I choose to.

Also came with an app called 'internet'. Guess what that does. Lol. I choose to use chrome because it syncs between my phone and computer.

rbrunermd's picture

Speaking of mail, I happen to use the onboard email app for an AOL account and my shop email, Aqua mail for my personal verizon accounts and the onboard Gmail account. Works for me.

petershaw's picture

I always felt the case against Microsoft regarding IE was unjust. No-one had to use IE, there were always options available. Even more so I despair at the case against Google. If I were paying for Android the situation would be rather different and I see no reason against Google's choice of bundling. No-one has to use these facilities, there are alternatives available.

I would also go further in saying that Google has been one of the most generous and helpful companies whose products I use. I thank them for Android, Chrome, Earth, Search, Translate, Picasa, Drive and a lot of other products I've never got round to using. Considering I've never paid a cent to use any of these products, I view the EU case as anti-productive.

As far as some people have fears about data collection all I can say is that the only data they collect from me is in the public domain because I'm comfortable with it being there. Do I care if they know my spending patterns? Not one bit. At the end of the day I choose my purchases not advertisers or marketers.

pctyson's picture

I find it very interesting that you don't hear of them going after European companies. If you can't get any money from the companies in your own backyard because they don't know how to be super successful then go after the multi billion dollar companies from America. Damn the companies for being successful. They should be fined into oblivion for that. If you can't get the money from the American taxpayer through congressional giveaways then go after the rich American corporations. Ridiculous!!!