The European Commission (EC) has fined Google €4.34 billion for breaching EU antitrust rules by imposing restrictions on Android device makers and network operators "to cement its dominant position in general internet search".
Google must now bring this conduct to an end within 90 days or face penalty payments of up to 5 percent of the average daily worldwide turnover of Alphabet, Google's parent company, the EC said. Google has said it will appeal the EC decision.
Users who find search and browser apps pre-installed on their devices are likely to stick to these apps, said the EC, noting that the Google Search app is consistently used more on Android devices, where it is pre-installed, than on Windows Mobile devices, where users must download it.
"Google's practice has therefore reduced the incentives of manufacturers to pre-install competing search and browser apps, as well as the incentives of users to download such apps. This reduced the ability of rivals to compete effectively with Google," the EC said.
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The EC said Google granted "significant financial incentives" to some of the largest device manufacturers, as well as mobile network operators, on condition that they exclusively pre-installed Google Search across their entire portfolio of Android devices. "This harmed competition by significantly reducing their incentives to pre-install competing search apps", the EC said, but noted this practice ended in 2014.
The EC also said Google has prevented device manufacturers from using any alternative version of Android that was not approved by Google (Android forks) and said this reduced the opportunity for devices running on Android forks to be developed and sold.
"For example, the Commission has found evidence that Google's conduct prevented a number of large manufacturers from developing and selling devices based on Amazon's Android fork called "Fire OS"," it said.
The Commission decision requires Google to bring its illegal conduct to an end in an effective manner within 90 days of the decision. It said that "at a minimum", Google has to stop and to not re-engage in any of the three types of practices. The decision also requires Google to refrain from any measure that has the same or an equivalent object or effect as these practices.
If Google fails to ensure compliance with the Commission decision, it would be liable for non-compliance payments of up to 5% of the average daily worldwide turnover of Alphabet, Google's parent company. "The Commission would have to determine such non-compliance in a separate decision, with any payment backdated to when the non-compliance started," it said.
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