Google hit with 4 3 bn euro Android fine from EU

The EU penalty was expected to exceed Google's 2017 fine because of the broader scope of the Android case sources said

Functionally, preventing an altered version-or "fork"-of Android also prevents Samsung, a hugely popular maker of Android devices through its Galaxy line, from breaking off and taking much of the Android ecosystem with it". Interestingly, Microsoft was one of the companies - alongside Nokia, Oracle, and others - that prompted the European Commission to begin its probe following a formal complaint filed in 2015.

EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said she "very much liked" the United States, countering a reported remark by President Donald Trump that she "hated" the country because of her antitrust actions against USA firms.

The ruling aims to open the door for Samsung, Lenovo Corp and other phone makers that have been tied to selling devices full of Google applications to start using some alternative software from the likes of Microsoft and Amazon without the device losing too much of its consumer appeal, according to European Union press statements and European Union sources on condition of anonymity.

The fine may be a record but it won't do too much damage to Google's finances.

Because Google makes the Android platform available for free, the company only makes money off the phones if Google apps are installed and used, Pichai says.

"The decision ignores the fact that Android phones compete with iOS phones, something that 89 percent of respondents to the Commission's own market survey confirmed", said Pichai.

The European Commission claimed that this was part of an overall strategy to cement the dominance of Google search, at a time when the importance of mobile internet was growing significantly.

Users may opt to replace the new defaults with Google search or Google Chrome apps anyway, but at least some would stick with the default options, according to the EU.

As for Android consumers, the CEO said they are free to download apps and use browsers and search engines other than Google's pre-loaded services.

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Why was Google's conduct a concern to the Commission?

Google's parent company, Alphabet, made $12.7 billion in profit in the first three months of the year and has US$102.9b (A$139b) in cash reserves.

The EU also took issue with Google's payments to wireless carriers and phone makers to exclusively pre-install the Google Search app. Furthermore, phone makers are "also free to pre-install competing apps alongside ours", Pinchai said.

"Today, because of Android, there are more than 24,000 devices, at every price point, from more than 1,300 different brands, including Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Latvian, Polish, Romanian, Spanish and Swedish phone makers".

Two European sources told AFP the fine would be "several billion euros" but said the exact amount would not be finalised until European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker meets his commissioners on Wednesday morning.

Google forcefully objects to the ruling, calling it a a rejection of Android's entire business model.

The probe is reminiscent of the antitrust case that Microsoft was hit with by the USA government in 1995, alleging that the company abused its position to force Internet Explorer to be the default web browser on PCs.

"We have to protect consumers and competition to make sure consumers get the best of fair competition", Vestager said.

Vestager added she would continue to enforce competition law, no matter the political context.

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