Google may be facing yet another decision in an antitrust investigation in the EU, according to a new report by Reuters, including a fine that could exceed $2.7 billion. The news comes just a few days after the EU finalized a record-setting $2.7 billion fine over Google's practices involving shopping ads in search. It serves to reason, then, that a fine for something as large as terms of licensing Android would surely be larger than one for a certain part of search results.
The EU is reportedly forming a special panel of experts to further investigate Google's practices around licensing the Android operating system to manufacturers, which it claims is anti-competitive in nature. If this discussion sounds familiar, it's because it actually stems from an investigation into the matter back in April 2016. Discussions about Google abusing its market dominance have been around much longer that that.
EU regulators claim that Google's terms for licensing Android, which require a specific set of Google apps to be loaded on the phone and prevent manufacturers from making Android devices without Google's services, are anti-competitive and ultimately hurt companies. Google's argument, naturally, is that those manufacturers are free to make phones using the open-source build of Android and their own services if they choose to do so. In contrast with other antitrust regulations, like those here in the U.S., the EU doesn't necessarily need to show an abuse of monopoly power in order to levy a fine — as it has shown in prior cases.
Reports claim that the European Commission could reach a decision on the matter by the end of the year. Aside from yet another massive fine, it could also potentially force Google to change the terms of licensing Android in order to fall within the EU's demands for competition in the mobile space. Given recent decisions against Google, the possibility of another such decision doesn't seem so far-fetched anymore.
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Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.