Google is once again in hot water with the European Union, after it was issued with a €4.34 billion ($6.83 billion AUD) antitrust fine.
The heavy penalty comes after European antitrust regulators found Google has been using its Android mobile operating system to block rival companies since 2011.
“Google has used Android as a vehicle to cement the dominance of its search engine,” said EU commissioner Margethe Vestager.
“These practices have denied rivals the chance to innovate and compete on the merits.
“They have denied European consumers the benefits of effective competition in the important mobile sphere.
“This is illegal under EU antitrust rules.”
The commission found that by posing restrictions on Android manufacturers, such as requiring pre-installation of the Google app, Google had breached antitrust rules.
It also found that Google had paid manufacturers to exclusively pre-install the Google app on devices, and prevented manufacturers wishing to pre-install the Google app from selling alternate versions of Android that had not been approved by Google.
“Pre-installation can create a status quo bias,” the commission states in a press release. “Users who find search and browser apps pre-installed on their devices are likely to stick to these apps.”
“For example, the commission has found evidence 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.”
According to the commission, this “abuse” has “harmed competition and further innovation in the wider mobile space, beyond just internet search.”
As well as the fine, the EU has also ordered Google to cease its “illegal conduct” within 90 days or face further penalties of 5% of average daily worldwide turnover.
“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,” it states.
Google’s latest fine follows a €2.42 billion penalty from the EU last year for “abusing its dominance as a search engine by giving an illegal advantage to Google's own comparison shopping service.”
In a statement released on Wednesday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai refuted the EU’s antitrust claims.
“Today’s decision rejects the business model that supports Android, which has created more choice for everyone, not less,” he said.
“We intend to appeal.”
While the appeal process could potentially take years, Google must still deposit the money into a holding account while the legal process unfolds.
Pichai explained that the EU’s decision missed some key facts.
“Android has created more choice, not less,” he said.
“The decision ignores the fact that Android phones compete with iOS phones, something that 89% of respondents to the commission’s own market survey confirmed.
“It also misses just how much choice Android provides to thousands of phone makers and mobile network operators who build and sell Android devices.”