Google was accused of “stifling competition and innovation” by EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager as she explained how the search giant used Android to impose unfair restrictions on device manufacturers and operators.
Following an investigation that opened in April last year, the commission reached a preliminary view that Google broke EU antitrust rules.
The search giant has been sent a statement of objections and has 12 weeks to respond with the option of an oral hearing with the antitrust regulator.
Quizzed about possible remedies, Vestager would only say that “the remedy here is simple: stop practices that are damaging innovation and competition.”
She was also asked whether EU competition investigations into Google and other US firms was a form of European protectionism, a frequent complaint from the other side of the Atlantic.
“it is not our job to defend companies, our job is to make sure there is competition. If a company grows to be dominant, that is fine. It might even be a motivation for them. But if dominance is abused then we have an issue. That is the task for the EU, no matter what flag or nationality of company,” she stated.
The EU found Google is dominant in three markets: general internet search services, licensable mobile operating systems for smartphones, and Android-based app stores. The firm holds shares greater than 90 per cent in each of those markets in Europe, said the EU.
Google abused its dominance by requiring handset vendors to pre-install Google search and Chrome, and setting Google as the default search engine on their devices, as a condition for licensing certain Google apps.
Also, the company prevented vendors from selling smartphones and tablets running on forked versions of Android. Vestager did not say whose rival version of Android had lost out.
Thirdly, Google gave financial incentives to vendors and operators on condition they exclusively pre-install the company’s search engine on their devices. The accusation of financial incentives is a new one. Vestager admitted she didn’t know how much the incentives are worth but said they were in the form of revenue sharing arrangements “that prevents competition because of strength of financial incentive.”